At Toyota they have been doing the same thing for decades. The Lean Manufacturing world calls it a “Kaizen event,” and it is a key element of the process which Toyota have used to build cars faster, cheaper, and better every year. They gather together a team and ask them to spend a day working to come up with improvements, and then go out on the floor and implement them.
The Kaizen event’s first and most obvious benefit is that provides time for improvements to be implemented immediately and regularly. But when it is a regular process, there are other benefits. Employees are encouraged to develop a pattern of looking for improvement opportunities, so they can have something to suggest to the team at the next event. The whole team takes ownership of the improvement process, and individual employees begin to see themselves as a team. There’s also a certain energy that is generated by making changes in real time.
At Toyota Kaizen is not just an event, but a continuous process of improvement, but the event is a key to developing a culture where continuous improvement is just part of the routine.
IT Departments need Kaizen events, new technology is coming at them faster than they can manage, processes aren’t automated just because nobody has a free couple of hours, and things can get messy very quickly. If your people aren’t motivated to improve the processes in their area, and feel frustrated with the demands of their work, you can help them by carving out time to have a Kaizen event once a month. Give them the tools and resources they need, and let them loose improving the things they touch every day.