Kaizen | Change your business thinking today!
Kaizen is basically the Japanese words for “continuous improvement”. The concept was created by the manufacturer Toyota a short while after the Second World War. It’s all about looking at processes and making them simpler or faster (or probably both). Many organisations have implemented the Kaizen approach and have reaped business rewards in the process.
The Kaizen approach encourages a company to innovate and look for improvements all the time in the process. It is often a culture that is inbred in the employees of such companies that employ the techniques. The whole purpose is to produce the perfect process, for instance in factory production lines if the operators detect an abnormality on the process they may stop the production to investigate why it has gone wrong.
Control is the key to the Kaizen process. Whilst the concept and in many cases the application is simple there are rules, for instance employees are not just allowed to change a process in an unstructured way.
If a design or process needs to be changed it needs to be formally documented, tested, changed and then reviewed. This is sometimes referred to as Lean management, the attempt to improve and make a process faster but as importantly more efficient.
Asking Why, Why, Why, Why, Why
When Toyota created the Kaizen process, they asked their employees to ask “why” five times. This was an attempt to uncover the true foundation of the process fault. Indeed I have tried this a few times with colleagues and whilst they thought I had gone crazy, it did uncover some truths about certain faults in a process. Try it and see if it works in your place of work.
Most organisations simply concentrate on the bottom line, where focus is primarily on sales or marketing. Many organisations spend very little time looking at their processes and look to improve them. These types of improvements, no matter how small can contribute some fantastic results to the bottom line of a company. Do not ignore this. All organisations need to gain a competitive advantage by what ever means possible, Kaizen could be the tool to do this.
Getting rid of “Muda”
Muda is a Japanese term roughly translated as “waste” or “something that does not add value to your life”. This is as applicable to organisations as is it to peoples everyday personal lives. Look around the factory floor or the office, I can guarantee there is something that can be improved.
I urge managers not to under estimate the power of the employee. They are in the “process” day in day out and are often the ones that come up with great ideas.
Make sure you invest in training, a short course on the Kaizen concepts should not cost a massive amount of cash but the pay back could be tremendous once employees’ eyes get back on the shop floor and seek out those improvement plans.
Want to change the way your company looks at itself, then look at the concepts of Kaizen and see where it takes you. In return for a small amount of investment, you could change the way your company performs its daily tasks and business dramatically and in return gain a significant advantage on your competitors.