When your team masters kaizen, the first things you may notice include an improvement in your company’s culture, better communication and higher morale among employees, and higher levels of customer satisfaction. Ah, yes, the Land of Kaizen is a great place to be – and here are 6 steps to help you get there:
Share the kaizen philosophy
Kaizen is a long-term solution to problems you might not know exist. In fact, discovering areas for improvement is part of the kaizen process. One of the most effective ways to uncover these opportunities is to imbue everyone in your organization with a sense of ownership in the kaizen process.
Successful organizations establish a robust culture of continuous improvement by explaining the kaizen philosophy and its history, and by energizing kaizen efforts not as a one-time management initiative, but as a change in perspective that’s good for the long haul.
Start small, keep moving
Encourage teammates to identify small areas where improvements can be made. Such an approach achieves many things: it helps engage employees in the kaizen process, it quickly establishes the value of kaizen to the entire organization, and more often than not, the accruing improvements are worth more than the sum of their parts. In addition, constant small changes reduce the need for dramatic, disruptive changes later on.
Encourage your team to seek out the root causes of problems. It’s always better to cure the illness than to simply alleviate the symptoms. Let your team surprise and delight you with their initiative and ingenuity!
Empower your team
The workers closest to the work are your key to understanding and solving problems. When they present ideas, encourage them to coach them toward being better stewards of the kaizen philosophy. Share their solutions publicly with your entire organization to spur others to action. By doing so, you’ll help establish a sense of shared ownership in continuous improvement.
Get buy-in from the top
Those at the top of your company have an unobstructed view of the bottom line. As it turns out, that’s where the value of continuous improvement is most prominently revealed. It’s important to highlight the financial return on each small kaizen investment of time and resources, and the cumulative effect they have on efficiency, quality and morale. When your company’s top brass see better performance through kaizen, they’ll become evangelists for the cause. That’s essential, as employees need the support of leadership to implement the improvements they discover.
Track success, document procedures
Ensure all process improvements you put in place provide measurable results… and measure the results! Compare performance to benchmarks to establish those all-important ROI numbers. These data are your guide to future improvements as well. Quantify results using easily understood metrics you can apply to cost, customer satisfaction, quality, and the use of space, time and personel. Establish new KPIs around any “pain” points where improvements are to be considered.
Train employees how to sustain the new, improved process with good documentation. Standardize procedures so the success they support is repeatable and the procedures themselves are easily taught to new staff. If newly standardized procedures result in repeatedly demonstrable improvement, your team has set a higher performance bar and benchmarks will have to be revised upward.
Play it again, Sam!
This is the “continuous” part of “continuous improvement.” Once you’ve established a framework for kaizen, the hardest work is over. If your entire organization is on board, continuing the kaizen journey should be smooth sailing.
Your first success won’t be your last if it becomes the launch point of a new kaizen cycle. Your team has learned how to identify wasted time, effort, resources and the like – now it’s time to do it again!
6 Steps to the Land of Kaizen
was written by me, Greg Norton – also known as webzenkai. I’ve got more than two decades’ experience building effective websites and powerful email campaigns that yield results. Feel free to contact me regarding this article or anything else you find on this website.