Professional Development

How to implement the Kaizen philosophy in your workplace

Written by Guest Contributor

I’m sure you’ve heard the words Lean, Kaizen, and Six-Sigma at some point in your business career. They are three of the most popular philosophies used for business success today.

Kaizen uses continuous improvement to help increase efficiency; Lean is a method of eliminating waste, while Six-Sigma is a set of tools that aim to help limit variability and defects.

Kaizen may be the most translatable method for both business and personal growth. Here are five steps to becoming a great Kaizen connoisseur and put a unique spin on your workplace culture.

1. Embrace incremental change

One of the most fundamental tenets of Kaizen is small, incremental change or one percent improvement each day. Small, incremental changes are easier to implement than large, radical changes but they can have powerful cumulative results.

If you are a business owner wanting to improve your work culture, know that changes need to be gradual. Kaizen and innovation are the two primary methods used to create change. While innovation requires a radical, sometimes shocking transformation, Kaizen only asks you to take small, comfortable steps toward improvement. Those steps can seem ridiculously trivial, but they deliver results.

Want to teach your new employee everything you learned for the past decade? You know the adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” You cannot do it with a single procedure, in a single day. You need to take small steps and share your experience one piece of information at a time.

2. Seek feedback

Making small changes over time enables you to course correct if you realize you are heading in the wrong direction. When leading a team, asking for feedback will help you determine if the change you brought helps your employees work easier.

Feedback should be a part of your business improvement strategy. Note that just asking for feedback does not always mean you will get it, and how you respond to it will also go a long way towards determining if you ever get it again.

But it’s important to note, not all feedback is helpful, so learn to evaluate and filter information without alienating the person giving it. Just because their feedback may not be useful in one instance doesn’t mean they cannot contribute.

3. Eliminate waste

In Kaizen, eliminating waste gives you the resources to create one percent improvement each day.

Eight things represent waste in Kaizen:
1. Overproduction
2. Waiting or wasted time
3. Transportation (another time-based waste)
4. Extra Processing (includes higher quality than necessary processing)
5. Inventory
6. Unnecessary Employee Movement
7. Defective products
8. Underutilized workers (talent, knowledge)

The constant evaluation coupled with striving to reduce time-consuming or unnecessary activities creates the time to focus on growth and improvement.

4. Focus on improving processes

Kaizen’s flame was ignited during the Industrial Revolution beginning with Henry Ford. He was an innate strategist who removed waste by cutting Model T’s production time for 87% when he introduced single work stations. He almost single-handedly spearheaded the Industrial Revolution by trimming the fat. Ford created a better production process that lead to improved working conditions, lowered prices for the Model T car, etc.

Toyota’s executive Taiichi Ohno witnessed the process became obsessed with Ford’s production system. When he returned to Japan, he used Ford elements to create the Toyota Productions System (TPS) – a strategy relying on continuous improvement (Kaizen) as its cornerstone.

You might think of Kaizen as creating a recipe using the fewest number of steps and ingredients to achieve the best results. Even the most innovative processes can stem from making small changes.

Ask yourself: What can I do in one minute per day to make x better?

5. Work as a team to solve problems

In that same vein, asking proactive, but small questions to train your mind into thinking of a solution is very Kaizen. The answer may not come right away, but these questions can help all team members brainstorm potential solutions and contribute their point of view. Kaizen encourages team participation in solving the problem rather than spending time trying to place the blame.

Some more questions you can ask are:
● How can I make my work 5% more enjoyable?
● How can I do this task 1 minute faster?
● How can I improve the first step of the process to get 5% better results?

When those around you see the value and impact of what you are doing, they will be sure to follow suit.

About the Author:
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.

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