The books all refer to him as the ‘concrete head’, and I’ve heard him referred to as the ‘block head’, the ‘knuckle head’, or the guy no one wants to listen to. I say him because in all the kaizen events I have facilitated, this person was always a male; generally middle-aged or older, experienced, smart, and flat out didn’t care what people thought of him. He was disruptive, questioned everything, everyone, knew-it-all, looked down on others, and thought his time in your kaizen event was just a big waste of time.
Picture this guy (or lady) has just been assigned to your kaizen team by your management. We said he was smart – probably knows the most about the process, product, or service you are about to attempt to improve, so how do you keep the kaizen team focused on the objectives, in the time allotted, all the while having to deal with this guy?
It’s not an easy answer, so if you thought I was going to give you a simple rule for dealing with this guy, that can’t be done.
There are a number of ways in which to deal with him, and with the situation. Sometimes it’s better to start out with the situation. In my experiences, I have found that covering the ground rules early in the kaizen planning phases, and again in the beginning of the event kickoff meeting can have a major positive effect on the actions of “that guy”.
The kaizen ground rules are:
1. There is no rank among team members – everyone must work together towards a common goal
2. Keep an open mind – change can go either way, so at least hear out the ideas of others
3. Some change is good but more positive change is better
4. Maintain a positive attitude towards everything and everyone
5. Never blame anyone for anything – this can stifle good ideas
6. Always respect everyone no matter what
7. There is no such thing as a dumb question – this age-old adage still rings true today
8. The only good plans are the ones you can actually implement – don’t waste time on the others
9. There is no substitute for hard work and a little sweat
10. Always – Have Fun!
By covering these rules ahead of time, you will have set the stage for a much smoother event.
Now if “that guy” decides he still wants to challenge you and starts being rude to you or others in the event, find a good stopping point and take a break. Set this guy aside and have a little talk. Let him know that his actions are being counter-productive to both the spirit of kaizen, and to what you are trying to accomplish. Also let him know that they are negatively affecting his coworkers, and are considered rude, and potentially against company policy (if, of course, your company has a policy towards this type of behavior) that could lead to disciplinary action if reported by any of the team members.
It is imperative that you deal with this situation right away. Not doing so could lead to the worst type of kaizen event known – one that never gets completed and where no one wants to be a part of another one. Remember – kaizen is partly about small wins… and lots of them. Keeping your team in check, right down to the behavior of the individuals is very important to everyone.