In this blog, we discuss how to master Kaizen in 5 easy steps. Firstly, Kaizen refers to the Japanese words “kai” meaning change and “zen” for the good. We often hear the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, in Lean, this is certainly not the case. Kaizen empowers all team members to improve their own workspace or process. Most importantly, it involves making small and continuous but significant changes to work processes. Therefore, this Lean tool can be used at every level and area in both large and small organisations.
By challenging the status quo, you make small changes to your processes. Over time, these incremental changes add up to make a significant impact on your team and organisation.
As we return to our workplaces following Covid-19 restrictions, we will face new and unforeseen problems. Adapting to these new challenges will be critical for companies wanting to survive and thrive over the next few months and years.
Holding regular Kaizen events in your organisation can have many advantages. These include:
- Less waste – improved inventory, eliminating over-production, less idle time, reducing unnecessary activities. Companies should see waste and problems as an opportunity to grow.
- Motivated and engaged employees – your employees have a direct impact on how your company is performing. This will lead to improved commitment and employee retention.
- Better problem-solving capabilities – this builds and strengthens team members.
- Increased competitiveness – less inefficiencies lead to lower costs and higher quality products and services.
- Improved customer satisfaction – fewer faults lead to increased orders.
1. Planning a Kaizen Event
First of all, the leadership of the company should be fully committed and supportive of regular kaizen meetings or ‘huddles’. These meetings normally occur early in the working day or shift. So, managers should allow time for employees to work together. That being said, Kaizen workshops can interrupt normal operations but with proper planning, this doesn’t have to be an issue.
Ideally, teams should hold meetings in or near where the work takes place – this is known as “gemba”, the place where value is created.
2. Who Should be Involved?
Second of all, Kaizen involves everyone in your company – from senior managers to the most junior staff. Indeed, you may also consider involving employees not directly working in the work area. They can offer valuable experience and a different perspective on the problem. Certainly, everyone should be open to change.
Similarly, the “Voice of the Customer” should be taken into account. Involving customers and those people who deliver the product or service are those closest to knowing what has to be done to eliminate waste. Above all, be creative. Some of the best solutions to a problem come from thinking differently.
3. Where do you Start?
Next, you should focus on one specific area at a time. Sometimes, just starting can be overwhelming. For instance, some companies keep an “Issues Log” of items that may just need a fresh pair of eyes. Other companies start with known “bottlenecks” that have been causing problems for customers and employees.
4. Understand your Data
Most importantly, use qualitative and quantitative data to identify problems. For example, solving a customer issue, improving workflow, reducing errors or improving safety. Likewise, understand the data, dashboards and metrics – you only know you have improved if you can measure your results.
In other words, Kaizen can help companies yield significant returns often with minimum investment.
5. Simplicity is Key
Finally, simplicity is always better than dealing with complex problems. Implementing change can be hard. So, choose a simple solution you can start implementing immediately for a quick win. This will motivate you and your team to implement new and bigger changes.
Correct your mistakes straightaway. When you begin this process, not everything will work right away. Often, the real improvement comes from understanding why a change you thought would produce an improvement, gave you other issues.
Think of a sporting analogy – often the biggest lessons come from defeat.
Above all, don’t stop improving! Keep going and slowly but surely, you will start to see continuous improvements in all aspects of your business.
In Lean companies, Kaizen is the norm. It is a natural way of thinking for everyone in the organisation. By “thinking outside the box”, new and improved ways of working can have a significant positive impact on your business. We hope you liked this article on how to master kaizen. If you are interested in running an event and want to master Kaizen event, please contact us today to discuss how we can help.
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