Rapid improvement events - an overview

Rapid improvement events involve considerable coordination and management both prior and during the event. This page attempts to provide an overview of the tasks, activities and outcomes involved in developing and running an event.

There are three major activities involved in running a rapid improvement event:

  • The preparation
  • The event
  • The action plan


This is a two to three month period of:
  • Scoping the problem
  • Consulting widely
  • Choosing the RIE core and wider team
  • Collecting data on the performance of the process at the moment
  • Sorting the logistics for the event: venue, materials
  • Briefing facilitators
  • Communicating widely about the event
Preparation for the event is the most important element of the three activities, and will determine the potential level of success.


This is a typical agenda


  • Welcomes, introductions, ground-rules(1)
  • Introduction to lean thinking: the 7 wastes, why reducing variation is good, why batching is bad, how to spot value-adding and non-value adding activities
  • Discuss the process being looked at in the RIE, whats in scope, out of scope.
  • Review the ‘performance’ of the process at the moment: looking at the data


  • Start the current state map (example).
  • Draw the process end to end, add data-line and maybe time-line showing how long each step takes, add detail on known problem steps or where most errors occur. Draw the physical lay-out of the work area
  • Go see the real work area, get the current state map validated by the wider team, show it to people from completely different work areas for a fresh perspective.


  • Go and implement obvious and easy improvements that may have come out of yesterday, go and pilot or experiment with others
  • Start on future state map
  • Part 1 : Divergent phase – new ground rule (This is akin to a creative brainstorm. Generate at least 100 ideas and much laughter)
  • Part 2 : Convergent phase (Boil-down ideas by voting and more critical discussion)
  • Further testing and refinement and validating of future state map

  • Complete future state map
  • Start on its implementation there and then
  • Develop a 30-day action plan to achieve completion of the rest of it
  • Assign an owner of the plan and schedule bi-weekly or weekly reviews
  • Prepare presentation to executive sponsor. Concentrate on:
    • What measures will show how the future state will be better than the current state
    • Help needed to make sure the 30-day plan is achieved
    •  Any pump-priming investment that is needed and the pay-back lead time
  • Rapid improvement rvents raid the 'Muda Bank'. Future states typically do not need more resources in the medium to long term.
  • Present to executive

Ground rules

The golden rule is : No person may be criticised, only the process they work within. The whole point of an RIE is to honestly expose waste and inefficiencies. An honest and no-blame environment is essential. Everyone in the team must contribute honesty and be listened to without criticism.

All ideas are valid, if a suggestion makes the team laugh it probably has a grain of merit in it. No-one is allowed to criticise an idea, the use of the phrase 'yes, but' is banned. Wacky, creative, outlandish suggestions are encouraged.

Action plan

By the end of the 4 days things may look very different: job roles and layouts of workplaces for example. As the excitement and intensity of the event fades, all that is left is the plan. The owner of this plan has a great deal of responsibility and should ensure they have the time to commit to reviewing, consulting and helping to implement over the next 30 days.

The NHS Institute has produced a DVD which provides further details on these three activities. A short video webcast has been created to provide a taster of the DVD and can be accessed here.