Kaizen; What, Why, and How to Apply?

Kaizen; What, Why, and How to Apply?

Written By : Kaizen; What, Why, and How to Apply?

2021-03-09 16:44:06

Organizational change is the movement of an organization from one state to another. It is an essential part to stay ahead of your competition and never miss an opportunity. Change can take the form of a breakthrough, which requires months of planning, work, and a high budget. However, it can be a gradual, continuous improvement that occurs on-the-go, and in a lot of cases, continuous improvement is also a major part of breakthrough change. One of the most popular approaches to continuous improvement is Kaizen, which we are addressing in this article.

What is Kaizen?

Translated from Japanese, the word kaizen means “changing something for the better.” Kaizen is the philosophy of ongoing, systematic, incremental improvement in the way things are done.  It aims at continuously improving standardized production procedures. This improvement includes eliminating the unnecessary waste of business processes that adds cost without adding value. Although it is primarily associated with manufacturing, Kaizen brings about great value to businesses across all functions including healthcare, finance, psychotherapy, and life-coaching.

Why Kaizen?

Successful Kaizen efforts can result in several benefits, as follows:

  • Less waste, including time, resources, and revenue.
  • Facilitate a culture of ownership: employees have a direct impact on the way things are done which makes them happier and more confident.
  • Improved competitiveness, either between employees by providing suggestions or by the efficiency that contributes to lower costs and higher quality.
  • Improved consumer satisfaction: higher quality means happier customers.
  • Improved problem solving: encouraging the employees to solve problems continuously by looking at processes from a solutions perspective.

How to apply Kaizen methodology?

After reviewing the benefits, comes the most important question: How can Kaizen help in consciously improving business? Here is a guide for the best application!

  • Start with Yourself

First, you need to lead by example, since your company—people, products, and processes—will improve at the rate you improve. Get connected with your leading and lagging indicators, read more about the methodology, and seek ways to improve your own personal performance, and encourage those around you to do the same.

  • Provide Training

Employees are the greatest assets in your kaizen efforts. In Kaizen, every employee is involved, from management to the machine workers. Develop your team’s abilities through training and engage the team members to identify problems. Challenge them to routinely submit suggestions for positive change, evaluate their ideas, and put the good ones into practice. Also, remember to value the other suggestions and provide a reason for not implementing them.

  • Identify

Consider Kaizen as a long-term practice, rather than a management initiative. Numbers are the language of improvement i.e., throw out your traditional ideas on how to do things. Make sure to describe your goal clearly, establish the new best-way of doing something, and stick with it until a better way is found.

  • Measure and Analyze

Collect data by looking at the management system and analyze it by using the 5 Why & 2 How model. Keep asking “why” until you get to the root cause of the problem. Improve specific steps or components in your business systems and processes, for example, get defects to less than 1% or cut lead-time in half. Even if they may seem a small change, pennies earned from small improvements add up fast.

  • Create your own kaizen guidelines

It’s important to personally understand your company’s kaizen journey. While you can use many available resources, it’s preferable to create guidelines based on your own experiences improving the workplace. Remember to apply creativity and craftiness before cash, and follow the 80-20 Rule; do the twenty-percent of things that get you eighty-percent of improvement results.

  • Focus on the Right Things

Breakthroughs come from small, gradual changes. If you improve by just 1% every day for a year, you’ll be 37 times better than when you started. Zero in on removing the obstacles in your business processes that slow order completion or collection of cash. Find ways to provide customers greater value and a better buying experience with more profit for you, since quality plus speed equals low cost.

  • Document and Evaluate

In kaizen, it’s important to “speak with data and manage with facts.” Mapping the process’s initial state can help you identify wastes and areas for improvement and provide a benchmark. Measuring performance against existing benchmarks allows you to demonstrate ROI from your kaizen efforts. It also allows you to identify areas where your efforts are working–or not–so you can make strategic decisions about future improvements.

  • Standardize Work

Kaizen involves setting performance standards for your business systems and processes and then striving to elevate those standards. When you make improvements to a process, it’s important to document the new standard work in order to sustain the improvements and create a new improvement baseline. Standard work also reduces variability in processes and promotes discipline, which is essential for continuous improvement efforts to take root.

  • Enforce Improvements

As we said before, Kaizen implementation requires regressing to old ways. It applies to all employees as Kaizen is a philosophy based on that improvement is everyone's responsibility. Therefore, enforcing the new changes is important for the improvements to last, and it’s a key to sustaining continuous improvement in the long term.

  • Never Stop Improving

After completing all the steps, you need to repeat the cycle by making another small improvement. The most important thing is to know what the problem is and what needs to be done so that you have the opportunity to try some new ideas.

 

Implementing Kaizen may be an easy approach to dealing with issues and problems in your organization, but it indeed requires a long-term commitment to a series of efforts and improvements. Some kaizens can be implemented in a matter of hours, while others can take years. Always remember that no kaizen is too large or too small as long as they translate into ongoing savings, productivity, or quality improvements.