In-person, focused  improvement events like Rapid Improvement Events, Kaizen Events, and GE Work-Outs are some of the most effective tools in the improver’s toolbox.  

The power of an in-person improvement event is tremendous. First, you have the team’s undivided attention. Everyone is in the same room and has the same objective for the next 8 hours, or for the next couple of goals. You put away electronics and laser focus on the task at hand. With a traditional project apporach, it may take you months to accomplish what you can accomplish in a couple day event.  

Second, you have time pressure to deliver a result. At the end of your improvement event, you will report back to your sponsor. This forces the team to act quickly, make decisions and drill to the root cause of the problem. You know you must report progress. 

 And finally, improvement events enable free-flowing discussion and promote creative thinking. You can easily debate pros and cons of different solutions. You can have active conversations in a safe environment.  

But what do we do when we can’t feasibly bring everyone together in the same room? 

Here are the top 7 things you must do to convert your in-person improvement event to a virtual improvement event. We call this the VIP Difference (Virtual vs In Person): 

1. Strategic Scoping

De-scope your project. A narrow scope will help your team focus their efforts and allow them to deliver improvements more rapidly. It also allows you to reduce the size of your project team to accommodate virtual events. Remember – you can always have multiple events to address different parts of your problem. 

2. Limit the Project Team Size

With in-person events, it’s possible to have more team members since you can break them into sub-groups. You can assign each group to address one aspect of the project then bring the teams together to cross-share. Further, it’s easier to monitor who is engaged (or disengaged) when you can see facial expressions and body language. Virtual Events limit this flexibility since you’ll be using video technology. 

3. Personal Team Prep Calls

Contact each team member personally to address any concerns, limitations or technology constraints that they may have. Eliminate any roadblocks that prevent them from being fully engaged. Your team member may need technology (like a better monitor or internet access) or may not have much privacy when working from home. 

It’s time to get creative to make sure they can be successful. The only way to know what your team needs is to ask them personally. This is a great way to show “respect for people” and demonstrate they you truly value their ideas and participation.

The VIP Difference: Virtual vs. In Person

4. Shorter Events

It’s nearly impossible for our co-workers to remain fully focused for 8 hours in a virtual event. It’s difficult to continually stare at a computer monitor and sit in the same place for hours on end. During events, we move around the room and use a variety of techniques for facilitating. But during a virtual event, our teammates are liekly sitting in teh same spot without limited variety.

Breaking your sessions into  shorter, multi-day events  maximizes results. An 8-hour event could be broken up into 3-4 hour sessions over 3 days. 

5. Electronic Tools

In a virtual event, it’s difficult to map processes with sticky notes and do brainstorming on a flipchart. Practice using electronic tools to facilitate the meeting. Consider preparing worksheets for the team to use for activities and to documen thier ideas. This will also help with engagement when they are not actively participating around a whiteboard or flip chart. 

The CII membership has great electronic templates to help you facilitate discussions like stakeholder analysis and prioritization.

6. Intentional Informal Discussions

Incorporate time for informal discussion. During in-person events, valuable conversations happen on breaks and in the hallway. Often, team members will continue to develop incredible ideas over lunch or while refilling their coffee.

Let’s recreate this atmosphere in the virtual event. Plan a team lunch or snack break where you spend time getting to know each other. It’s important that you intentionally stop any formal activities and have a relaxed conversation.

7. Expert Facilitation

Use a skilled facilitator to lead the event. A skilled facilitator can watch the group for cues on team dynamics and work to create an comfortable environment that encourages sharing and open discussion. 

It’s easy to get distracted when working from home or remotely. The facilitator must continually monitor the team and re-engage any team members who have lost focus. Further, the facilitator will make sure that every team member gets an equal opportunity to provide input.

Looking for more?

Watch the full Virtual Improvement Event webinar here.

Even though we can’t meet in person, we can still make incredible improvements to our business. With a little creativity, and a lot of flexibility, continuous improvers can lead their organizations through virtual improvement events to make rapid improvements. 

For the full, 20-page Virtual Improvement Event Guide, join the CII Membership at cii-membership.com.  Want help planning your next event? Ask for help in the CII Community! The online forum is included with your CII Membership. 

Author: Allison Greco

Author: Allison Greco

Founder, CII

I created my foundation with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past decade, I have held Continuous and Process Improvement roles for Black Hills Energy, Williams, the US Air Force and BNSF Railway. I’ve started new CI programs and reinvigorated stale ones. Along the way I earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and became a licensed Professional Engineer.