As David Kiger has said on other articles, Kaizen is the philosophy of continuous improvement. The word Kaizen in itself comes from two Japanese words, kai that means “change” and Zen that states for “good”. In simple, Kaizen is the philosophy that involves constantly changing for good.
This philosophy may take place anytime in any context. However, it is widely used in the culture of companies and businesses. This way, everyone, from the janitor to the CEO are required to be part of the continuous improvement process, questioning their actions, input, contributions and most commonly made mistakes.
Many things have been said about Kaizen, and it is recognized as an outstanding method to improve the way a company operates. Thanks to this, this article will give explain that is Kaizen in brief and the main concepts related to it.
One Step at The Time
Let’s say you have identified something that you don’t like or isn’t working properly inside your company. What do you do? How long are you willing to wait for things to get better? It is important to ask this kind of questions since most people simply believe that as soon as they identify something they can correct it and the company’s culture will digest it in hours and everything will be fine.
Kaizen knows that any change, no matter how small, requires time and patience. This is why it talks about continuous improvement. It is not about correcting a thing once and just take for granted it is going to work. It is about understanding the root causes, preparing a strategy and slowly applying that strategy in time. Kaizen recognizes chance as a slow process.
This may sound annoying to most people. But, in reality, this is the best option for companies that want to definitely correct their mistakes and become more productive. Once everyone inside a company commits to take one step at the time and always move forward, you will be on the right path to improve your company. Small steps will eventually lead to huge change over time.
Everyone is involved
As it was said before, Kaizen involves the change and improvement of every single member of the organization. No matter if you are the one in charge of preparing the coffee of the big guy who owns most stock of the company. Everyone needs to take part in it, otherwise, it will fail.
This is an important thing companies should keep in mind when considering the move to Kaizen because often the same employees are the ones who give the necessary feedback about their work. This means that there won’t be outside evaluations and that the company will need to trust its people in order to know which step comes next.
Due to the fact that Kaizen involves every member of the organization, it is important for the team to be vigilant and help those who are struggling with the changes. Discussions may take place and new decisions will need to be taken along the process.
Here, an important thing about Kaizen will be detailed: Kaizen is a way of thinking not a set of tasks or rules that need to be followed once to achieve a basic goal.
A good way to explain this would be using a metaphor. Imagine you want to lose weight. If you simply starve, you will lose it right away, but once you move to your old habits, you will gain it all over again and maybe it will be worse than before. So, what you need to do is learn how to eat. That way, you will lose weight gradually while you improve your habits and will be able to stay healthy because healthy dieting has become part of your life and mindset.
Companies can use different types of tools to implement Kaizen as part of the company’s culture. One is to train the team on the meaning of Kaizen. This way, everyone will be on the same page and will understand how the philosophy of continuous improvement works. Once everyone knows how it operates, you all can start identifying the spots where improvement can take place.
Improvement can be applied in the shape of a task that was removed because was inefficient, or the inclusion of production steps that are meant to simplify the process. In short, all modifications are different and depend on the company’s history, problems and will to change.
Kaizen Need Management
Even though Kaizen seems to be a great option to improve your company’s current conditions gradually and it involves the whole team. It is important to notice that there must be a manager or a person in charge of measuring the change, listening to new ideas and suggestions and evaluating the forms of current work to see if the applied change is still having an impact or should be reconsidered.
* Featured Image courtesy of Alan Levine at Flickr.com