by Judiffier Pearson, Business Consultant
Big results in your company can come from small changes accumulated over time. Read that previous statement again. Now how can you LIVE that and make it an authentic, sustainable part of your company culture? Small changes can most definitely lead to big results… when done strategically.
Kaizen is a Japanese word usually translated as “continual improvement”. It is made up of two words: “kai”, which means change, and “zen”, which means “for the better”. There is a tremendous amount of self-discipline and commitment required for kaizen activity to be transformational in the workplace. Kaizen is a strategy for making continuous improvements in all functions of an organization. It leads to better operational excellence and improved productivity when there is an unwavering commitment to improvement everyday, by everybody, everywhere in the company. Incorporate the three non-negotiables of kaizen (Everyday, Everybody, and Everywhere) to make desired results real:
- Everyday must be a challenge to find the better way of doing things. Kaizen is not project-based that starts and ends with a specific initiative. There is no downtime when moving from bad to good, good to great, or great to stellar. It requires a daily effort.
- Employees at all levels must be encouraged to come up with ideas and be actively engaged in suggesting and implementing improvements. It should start at the top levels of management and permeate throughout the company down to entry-level and support positions.
- Kaizen is not merely a “shop-floor” function or responsibility. It is popular in six sigma circles for manufacturing, but its adoption and applications must occur everywhere, company-wide. From the C-Suite to the frontline.
In a nutshell, Kaizen is a Culture of Excellence. The beauty of it is that it focuses on creative solutions instead of capital expenditures. If you’re ready to commit to such a philosophy and way of being, concentrate on creative investments and small improvements to get immediate results. Focus on improving your process rather than just achieving certain results. Again, do not spend money for kaizen, use your wisdom and creativity. To nurture a Culture of Excellence in your company, organize and implement kaizen events that are focused on improving specific areas of the business. Make these events periodic, but recurring. Here is how you can get started:
- Identify and plan narrowly scoped events with cross-functional teams.
- Set goals and provide any necessary background.
- Review the current state and develop a plan for improvements. Teams need to go see for themselves to grasp the current situation.
- Implement improvements. Remember to speak with data, manage by facts.
- Review and fix what doesn’t work. Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems.
- Document results and determine any follow-up items.
- Complete this cycle within a 1-week period, then repeat and continue the journey.