How To Implement Kaizen In Your Small Business

Kaizen is a topic that we have discussed here in David Kiger’s Blog many times over, but today we want to focus on its implementation for small businesses and how strategies are surprisingly similar to what large companies have done to succeed by using this amazing productivity strategy.

Goals are a funny thing, they seem motivating at first and we like to see them as targets we want to shoot for and thus measure our performance and the performance of the organization. The problem with it is that sometimes what seemed attainable starts to look a bit out of reach as a deadline approaches, so there is a general tendency to come up with excuses instead of solutions. Is it fair to blame the leadership on their approach? Ultimately they are responsible, but perhaps there are ways to go around this that can help productivity get better in a measurable and easily attainable way.

Here is where Kaizen comes in. Kaizen is a philosophy that can make it easier to reach goals because its aim is not to focus on large macro achievements, but instead, it goes for smaller changes and actions that ensure you are in constant movement and continuous gradual improvement.

Kaizen stays away from making you believe there is such thing as an easy fix; a magic silver bullet that can make issues go away at a single shot. The Japanese word literally means, “change for better” and it is this beautiful simplicity that makes it so special because Kaizen is all about changing constantly and improving even if it’s just slightly.

The first step that you should take is that of identifying the processes that move your business. Business processes are what moves the organization forwards and they are absolutely necessary in order to function. It is a mistake to allow all the responsibility to fall to just one individual, as no company should operate in such way. Processes should be documented and reviewed in order to find ways that they can be improved. Constant review, training, and improvement should be applied to business processes as the company grows and the business environment changes. That is one of the most important aspects of Kaizen and a great to get started. What are you doing right now? How are you getting it done? Is it possible to improve even if is slightly? The answer to those questions will get you pointed in the right direction when it comes to implementing this philosophy for improved efficiency. Do not be discouraged by the fact that Kaizen is mostly used for assembly lines and manufacturing processes; it can actually be used for much more than just that as pretty much any process can and should be improved.

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Image courtesy of Kaique Rocha at

Something to always keep in mind is the fact that employees should be empowered to play an active role in this process. This is especially important for small businesses because this is the stage of an organization in which each person’s role is highly influential. It doesn’t mean that in large companies employees are not important, is just that in small businesses it is not uncommon to have a person represent a whole department and that is why open communication is so important. Take suggestions and feedback seriously and encourage your employees to talk about what isn’t working out so great. Understand that they are experts in their specific processes and they have a closer look at how those processes develop; that is why this information should be highly valued and sought after.

No detail is too small. It is important to value the low hanging fruit and to realize that every opportunity where you can clearly see improvement should be valued and taken seriously. Small improvements can start adding percentile points that in the end will most likely end up becoming large improvements because of paying attention to detail. This applies everywhere in the company and not only in the areas that directly deal with expenses. Waist can be found in many forms, so anything that can save your employees time or even virtual storage space should be reviewed and analyzed as a possible area in which Kaizen can be applied.

Improvement is not a destination. One of the greatest things about Kaizen is that is not something you can “finish” per se, but instead it is a philosophy you must continue exploring. Properly implemented strategies should be intertwined with your company’s fabric and become part of its core culture. Do not limit the implementation of Kaizen to certain moments during the year or dependent on performance reviews, instead, make sure that it is assimilated as the way things should work and something your employees should always strive for no matter what. Kaizen should become second nature and much more than a simple tool.   

* Featured Image courtesy of Tookapic at



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