Kaizen for entrepreneurs

Japan’s Kaizen concept is widely known. Expert David Kiger has addressed the topic from different points of views; many companies have proven the concept’s efficiency when it comes to establishing a continuous improvement philosophy as part of their organizational culture. But, is it possible to apply kaizen to startups? Experts say that today’s juncture, given the pace at which technological developments emerge, has broadened the connotation of the term. For well-established companies, the usage of kaizen has enabled changes in production methods that went on to save millions and, ultimately, helped these companies get through difficult times.

Startups, like any other company, can definitely harness the perks of kaizen philosophy. The key to seizing its full scope demands that startups involve their staff from early stages in order to align every person involved with a common goal: always seeking continuous improvement. Kaizen is one of a sheer array of lean management and manufacturing techniques alongside just-in-time inventory approach and six sigma. Toyota’s technique —applied around 1940— involves having small groups of workers brainstorm thoroughly about the way they currently carry out their tasks and whether there is a waste or not —understanding waste, of course, as everything that could lag and hinder the company’s activities—. Striving to cut out processes that add costs instead of value is the premise behind the whole concept, and startups can definitely focus on assessing their performance soon after launching their activities.

The idea behind a startup is to be as cost efficient as possible, given the fact that today’s juncture demands heavy investments in both technology and support tools. These changes are, of course, expensive, but by sparing no efforts in aligning employees (entrepreneurs) and the startup’s culture with this mentality, the organization is certainly going to achieve positive outcomes. Unlike well-established companies, Kaizen principles, when it comes to startups, honor improving processes and the never-ending struggle of optimizing the entrepreneurial excursion. Since the whole premise behind this philosophy is to attain an ongoing state of improvement, by definition, and judging by its nature, the scope of its application spans over time rather than focusing on achieving static outcomes. Its philosophy does not suggest that companies and startups, in special, should interpret the business and entrepreneurial journey under the processes beginning point and endpoint conception. The idea rather points out that regardless of whether it is an experienced company or a startup, the process should take place in the present, hence the importance of aligning members and people involved with both the concept and how goals can be efficiently achieved.

An entrepreneurial framework is uncanny, or at least way different than the regular organizational environment. Startups and entrepreneurs ought to involve every member of their businesses across all levels by focusing on five vital elements:

  • Discipline at work
  • Quality of the processes
  • Teamwork and harmonious working atmosphere
  • Input
  • Morale and collegiality

As Kaizen suggests, everyone involved is expected to convey their professional experience (or entrepreneurial, for this matter), including both achievements and drawbacks. Since this is not about focusing on producing a single outcome rather than an enduring process, considering both positive and negative experiences allows startups (and companies, of course) to eliminate waste, inefficiencies and possible ambiguity. In addition, when starting a business, it is always recommendable to create and effectively achieve a harmonious working atmosphere where people involved do not feel discouraged to work and participate in making the journey much better, thusly, by humanizing employees, kaizen is likely to yield a more positive return.

Image courtesy of KOMUnews at Flickr.com

Kaizen principles, although established almost 70 years ago, do not limit itself to traditional business and organizations structure. Instead, its application is much more flexible than what meets the eye: kaizen gets past structures and involves workers within the organizations regardless of how they operate. Kaizen assumes that perfection can never be in reality achieved, if it were possible, it would be a total nonsense for kaizen to exist. It is understood that everything is subject to improvement, no matter how good it might look at some point. Such definitions bring entrepreneurs to adopt the premises that suggest that kaizen is a constant process: every person involved becomes a huge asset; a big picture thinker.

Japan’s concept not only focuses on process, instead, it embodies a much more integral approach. Starting a business is unquestionably a daunting and stressful task where entrepreneurs and employees may get to feel the burden of responsibilities. Kaizen philosophy allows employees to understand that they are not part of a heavy organizational machinery, instead, their opinions and ideas are what drive the startup towards success. Empowering people within the business is certainly better when it comes to building a meaningful business, taking small steps, and paying special attention to details and ideas, is surely bound to result in nothing detrimental in the aftermath.

* Featured Image courtesy of Steven Zwerink at Flickr.com


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