Kaizen is a Japanese term emphasizes continual improvement process at work. Kaizen signifying working smarter together and developing best practices so that the workers well-being is looked after. The Kaizen journey begins down the road to improvement, a road that is sometimes bumpy and sometimes a superhighway. Kaizen is a compound of two Japanese words that together translate as “good change” or “improvement,” but Kaizen has come to mean “continuous improvement” through its association with lean methodology. Kaizen has its origins in post-World War II Japanese quality circles.
Kaizen is core to lean manufacturing, or The Toyota Way. It was developed in the manufacturing sector to lower defects, eliminate waste, boost productivity, encourage worker purpose and accountability, and promote innovation. It can be applied to any area of business, and even to personal life. Kaizen can use a number of approaches and tools, such as value stream mapping, which documents, analyses and improves information or material flows required to produce a product or service, and Total Quality Management (TQM), a management framework that enlists workers at all levels to focus on quality improvements. Regardless of methodology, in an organizational setting, the successful use of Kaizen rests on gaining support for the approach across the organization, and from the CEO down.
What are the Benefits of Kaizen?
Kaizen not only can improve processes; it engenders teamwork and ownership. Teams take responsibility for their work and can make improvements to enhance their own working experience. Most people want to be successful and proud of the work that they do, and Kaizen helps them to achieve this while benefitting the organization.
One of the main benefits of Kaizen is getting employees actively involved and engaged with the company. Having more engaged workers leads to more efficient processes, lower turnover, and higher rates of innovation. Engaged employees feel that they have an impact on the company’s performance and are more likely to try out new ideas. Additionally, organizations with more engaged employees can achieve higher competitiveness, enhance customer satisfaction, and have an improvement culture of solving problems through teamwork.
Understanding Kaizen Cycle for Continuous Improvement
- Get employees involved
Seek the involvement of employees, including gathering their help in identifying issues and problems. Doing so creates buy-in for change. Often, this is organized as specific groups of individuals charged with gathering and relaying information from a wider group of employees.
- Find problems.
Using widespread feedback from all employees, gather a list of problems and potential opportunities. Create a shortlist if there are many issues.
- Create a solution
Encourage employees to offer creative solutions, with all manner of ideas encouraged. Pick a winning solution or solutions from the ideas presented.
- Test the solution
Implement the winning solution chosen above, with everyone participating in the rollout. Create pilot programs or take other small steps to test out the solution.
- Analyse the results
At various intervals, check progress, with specific plans for who will be the point of contact and how best to keep ground-level workers engaged. Determine how successful the change has been.
If results are positive, adopt the solution throughout the organization.
These seven steps should be repeated on an ongoing basis, with new solutions tested where appropriate or new lists of problems tackled.
Besides Toyota who uses Kaizen in its business, other companies have also adopted the approach successfully. Lockheed Martin, Ford Motor Company and Pixar Animation Studios are some of the examples of the companies who have successfully make use of Kaizen continuous improvement for the success of their business.
Are you ready to improve your business to a greater height with Kaizen?