Matt Hrivnak

Kaizen: There's always another future state

Archive for March, 2010...

Filed under Kaizen, Lean

One of my favorite shows on TV in the past few years has been ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ on BBC, and now on FOX.  After the second or third episode that I saw, I started thinking that each episode seemed to be very much a kaizen event:  quick bursts of energy focused on problem solving and imrovement.  Ramsay’s goal in each of the episode is generally the same:  to turn a poorly performing restaurant into a successful one.  Along the way, he encounters a number of different obstacles from inexperienced owners and egotistical chefs to poorly designed menus with too many choices.


The three or four days (according to the show) that Gordon Ramsay is in his transformational role always begin with Gordon sampling a few dishes during lunch time and then providing feedback (always negative, because let’s face it, it’s TV for one thing, and secondly, these restaurants would have customers if the food was good).  Later in that same day, he will attend the dinner seating; stalking and observing the kitchen operation and customer reactions.  At the end of that night, he meets with the entire restaurant staff and delivers his bad news.


The second day starts with Gordon introducing the staff to new dishes that he has created to: a) standardize the menu with fewer, but higher quality choices, which also allow for the use of pull systems and easy inventory control measures, b) provide the staff with the taste of food that is possible from the same equipment they already use, and c) to simplify the dinner service for that night offering these new items as specials.  Additionally, he will often take some of the staff members to visit successful restaurants in the area to observe the differences.


Between the second and third day, Ramsay’s staff of decorators does a make-over on the restaurant with new paint, table settings, etc.  This provides a fresh new standard for the restaurant going forward, and something for the employees to maintain.


In the beginning, many of the owners and chefs do not see anything wrong with their business, but still admit that they are losing money and need help.  Throughout the process, they eventually open their eyes to the problems and begin the difficult process of changing.


While this show lacks the team participation aspects of a kaizen event, it still shows the drastic positive changes that are possible within just a few days.  (He still manages to listen to all of the concerns of the employees and incorporates them into his new ideas.) The changes may not always be permanent, but a lot of the simple standards Ramsay puts in place seem to stay put; preventing the restaurants from falling back to their unsuccessful ways that led them to the show in the first place.


Here’s the link:


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Comments (1) Posted by matt on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Filed under Kaizen, Lean

Yes, that’s right, the new hit CBS show ‘Undercover Boss’ is an engaging, and often times touching, CEO gemba walk.  Albeit sneaky, the gemba walks taken by these CEO’s are just as illuminating as the walks done by lean practitioners and kaizen event participants everyday.


For those unfamiliar with a gemba walk, it is a walk (i.e., plant tour) taken by managers (or lean participants) to GO AND SEE the actual work as it is being done today.  This removes all of the confusion and distortion of facts that is inherent in multi-level management situations.  The individual that is performing the walk will typically have a goal in mind at the beginning of the walk.  For example, they may want to look at a particular area, or at a particular type of chart that is used throughout the plant in various locations.  In addition to this goal, they will often ask questions of the supervisors and operators.  The most common would probably be “How often does that happen?” and “Is your supervisor aware of this issue?”  During a gemba walk, one can uncover many more issues than sifting through production reports and printouts.  There is no substitute for GO AND SEE.


While some of the ‘Undercover Boss’ show may seem staged, the overall show is terrific and you really have to applaud these CEOs.  Each of them has been very understanding of their employees and at the true issues causing many of the problems they encountered.  Once the CEOs took the chance to GO AND SEE, they started the process of improvement.  It all comes back to the basic question, “how can you correct an issue that you don’t know exists?”


‘Undercover Boss’ is fantastic and I encourage anyone that is looking to improve their operations to watch a few episodes just to get familiar with the overall idea of the gemba walk.  Now, one thing to keep in mind is that on the show, the employees do not know that the CEO is the person they are working with.  On a gemba walk, there are no secrets.  The people taking the walk should (at least some of them) be known to the employees being observed.  Otherwise, you will create distrust within the organization and your lean efforts are doomed to fail.


Here’s a link to the show:



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Comments (0) Posted by matt on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010