What you need to know about Kaizen

Like it has been mentioned in other articles, Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “improvement” or “change for better”, in other words, it means the continuously change that companies and people should do to improve processes and different life aspects.

These changes involve all people in companies, from the Chief executive officer (CEO) to the last of the operators. But these modifications are not only for people, they also apply to different processes in logistic that are transversal to the supply chain management.

In the logistic ambit, the Kaizen concept has a great value, because through its philosophy the processes which are part of the supply chain management could be improved and redesigned to get competitiveness and effectiveness.

Kaizen implementation

A known methodology for Kaizen implementation is PDCA, which means PLAN, DO, CHECK, and ACT. This technique consists in the repetition of four steps to control and improve the supply chain management process or company manners. In other words, this method uses these four phases to watch, supervise and adjust abnormalities in a business process like the supply chain management, with the main objective of doing it in a better way.

What you need to know about Kaizen
Image courtesy of Michael_P

PDCA Cycle

Plan: In this part of the cycle are established the objectives and the needs to be improved. Put differently, here is where is defined the target to be enhanced. It is recommended to do plans on a small scale to test these improvements.

Do: Here is where the plan is executed and implemented. In other words, in this stage is where the plan of targeted improvement will be accomplished. Besides, in the “Do” phase, it is recollected information and data to be analyzed and get feedback for the next stages.

Check: In this step, it is analyzed the data of the executed tasks from the “Do” stage, besides, this information is collected and consolidated to be used in the next phase (Act). In short, the “Check” step is where the plan implementation is examined and see if it worked or not.

Act: The final phase is where the information from all the other cycle steps are collected and analyzed. There is where decisions are made to see if the improvement developed in the “Do” stage worked or not. If this was a successful process improvement, this implementation will be a baseline for future PDCA Cycles. If this was not successful, it will be redesigned and planned again.

History

During the World War II, the resources production had to be very fast due to the need of different war elements. On the other hand, there was no time to increase production processes or to make innovative industry transformations, so companies had to improve their existing workforce and assets.

Having the context mentioned in the above paragraph, the Training Within Industry (TWI) developed in the United States the small step methodology, which was focused on the execution of small tasks progresses in organizations processes. In other words, this technique was dedicated to achieving organizational tasks in short time periods. In 1951, after the War, the United States helped to reconstruct Japan. In this process, under the United States guidance, the Training Within Industry (TWI) was installed in Japan letting this country to learn about controlling methods and improving management skills. The TWI used a film called “Improvement in 4 steps” which traduces in Japanese “Kaizen eno Yon Dankai”, giving the origin of the Kaizen concept in Japan for its implementation in the country’s reconstruction.

The TWI method involved statistics control, continuous progress, and teamwork; all of these elements had the main purpose of improving organizational processes to get better results in short time periods, what was needed in the reconstruction of Japan in that moment. The implementation of the Kaizen philosophy helped Japan to be one of the most important economies in the world after the war.

Kaizen and personal life

Kaizen is not just a business philosophy or an organizational methodology to get results. It is also an amazing tool for personal growth and a successful life. People can apply Kaizen in their lives making little changes and taking small steps to achieve their life goals. In other words, the adaptation of this philosophy for life does not involve giant or drastic transformations, but easy and continuous renovations contributing to the improvement of different life aspects. These little and constant changes will make that life objectives can be achieved day by day and step by step.

Kaizen philosophy can be implemented in a lot of life aspects to gain personal competitiveness, improve social relationships and reach success in professional ambit. Applying this methodology can help people to get knowledge about themselves and to develop different skills through little transformations in their way of life. To put on practice the Kaizen technique, people do not have to find quick success but seek continuous improvement one day at a time.

Related: How Kaizen Can Help You Live A Better Life by David Kiger

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