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Hear us out when we say this: Kaizen continuous improvement is ‘the’ way!

Mathew Maniyamkott

Mathew Maniyamkott

9 min read

The Japanese word ‘Kaizen’ is one of the most popular buzzwords in the business world. The word Kaizen stands for continuous improvement and it refers to activities that improve all functions which involve employees of all levels, from the CEO to the assembly line workers.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a strategy where all the employees work together in unison to solve a problem or to achieve regular improvements to a business process. The philosophy of Kaizen is about building a culture where all the employees are actively involved in improving the company. A company that has fully accepted it as a way of life would have employees from different levels of hierarchy implementing improvements daily even if it brings them discomfort.

When there is consistent effort and a sustained action plan to achieve Kaizen, it helps employees to be much more committed. Constantly applying Kaizen will create a huge long-term value that prods all your employees to strive for continuous improvement.

Benefits of Kaizen Continuous Improvement Way

1. Improves teamwork

Teamwork can be considered as the most obvious benefit of Kaizen. The philosophy of Kaizen revolves around working together in teams to create continuous improvement. It states that work done by people together is much more efficient when individuals work separately on the same thing. The team members are inculcated with the belief that working together can solve the issue at hand and even find a better way to face such things in the future. When you work in teams, you can complete the work much ahead of what was possible if individuals were working on it separately.

2. Kaizen reduces waste

There are a lot of ways in which regularly following the philosophy of Kaizen can reduce waste. It helps reduce waiting time, excess inventory issue, excess production and so on. It reduces waste by decreasing overproduction, increasing activity time and weeds out unnecessary activities. With Kaizen and its low-cost approach, you can understand which are the processes that add value and eliminate the processes that do not add any value. This process is done many times where the aim is to come closest to the ideal process where any activity that happens will only add value to the client.

3. Increase in efficiency

When you follow Kaizen, you would be able to build a lean business that uses resources frugally. The Kaizen theory trains its employees to work together with complete precision under any kind of circumstances. You can track the efficiency and find the ideal process that can be followed by increasing and decreasing resources, mixing and matching them and so on. When you reach the utmost efficiency, you can reduce the resources used and try to see if you can produce the same results with a smaller number of resources.

4. Safer conditions of work

Implementing the philosophy of Kaizen in your business means that you would be inculcating safety measures in the work as well. Kaizen allows better control of equipment, improves the process involved, keeps the areas where employees frequent clean- both the working area and their private spaces. Regular safety training is an important fixture in a company that follows Kaizen. This not only reduces any work-related injuries that might occur, but it also helps both the employees and the management to learn how to tackle it. Employees are also asked to suggest ways in which safer conditions for work can be made and their suggestions are considered as well If they make sens6. e.

5. Creates a repository of knowledge

Kaizen makes you document every aspect of the business including the minutest of details. This document can be used anytime when you encounter a problem, including not being able to understand the process, to see the step-by-step process involved in most processes and so on. Having such a document ensures that even if you run into any problem, there are solutions available to it in a repository somewhere in the office. It is easy to make future improvements as well when you use the Kaizen philosophy and create this repository of knowledge.

This repository of knowledge is called ‘Standard Work Documentation’ and as we have mentioned above, it helps from laying the foundation for future improvement, measuring employee performance, educating new employees, building new processes and so on. All the processes are updated regularly so that there are no irregularities. You can use this documentation to predict how things will turn up business wise and look at the kind of candidates that will stay for long.

6. Optimum utilization of resources

When you follow the principle of Kaizen, all the resources that are available will be used and if there are chances to reduce the number of resources that are being utilized, it will be done as well. This implementation of Kaizen not only reduces the money that is spent on materials but also increases efficiency. The efficiency that you see when you follow Kaizen philosophy can also be measured and appropriated based on the continuous optimization of resources.

7. Faster troubleshooting

As and when a problem is found, if you follow the Kaizen model, then the speed at which issues are rectified can easily be considered as one of the best methods to grow your business. It reduces lead time as well as increasing the production work. The temporary results that you get from taking care of issues might develop into a big process that you eventually develop as a result of Kaizen.

Kaizen is unique because of its concentrated team-oriented effort which helps improve the performance of a process under regulated conditions. When you are confronted with a problem that requires immediate resolution, using the Kaizen philosophy to improve the processes that you are currently using might be the best way to rapidly solve any problems.

8. Employee satisfaction

One aspect of Kaizen philosophy is that it helps improve employee satisfaction by inviting them to take a look at the processes and systems so that they can comment on what can be improved and if there are any areas that need immediate redressal. By being given this opportunity to contribute ideas directly, the employees will feel more involved and realize that they are being respected.

When you involve the employees more with the decision-making process, their involvement towards their work increases manifold and you can also expect them to suggest more things that can benefit the company. The suggestion system that you create because of the Kaizen system should be something that can be easily replicated at any day and without any interruption.

9. Enhanced ownership by the employees

When you involve your employees in the decision-making process, you can expect them to take initiatives, be willing to take risks for the company and feel like a part-owner which will help them give their best. People who are given higher responsibility and acknowledged with respect rarely go back to underperforming. Not only can you expect them to stick to new plans but go out of their way to solve existing problems and creating innovative processes to thwart any residual issues.

10. Cross-functional collaboration

This is the age of automation where a lot of the processes that were once pivotal have just become another activity that is automated. The automation is mainly helped because one department works in tandem with another one. Kaizen makes it possible for people from different departments to work together thus making it possible for expedited growth and reduction of resources which eventually means a lesser amount of money spent on operations.

11. Simplifies work processes

Kaizen eliminates extremely difficult work, this not only helps companies and employees, but you also stand to reduce the number of mistakes you make while increasing efficiency. When the overly difficult tasks are eliminated and simpler processes are created in place of that, you can reduce the production time by a huge number while also allowing for the resources that are freed to be used somewhere else. When the employees are involved in reducing the number of processes that are not easy and create a set of activities that follow the guidelines of Kaizen, you can expect more such activities to take place.

12. Improved morale of the employees

One of the best rewards of creating and working with Kaizen philosophy is that the employees are kept happy. When you have employees, the attrition rate will be extremely low, and you can expect them to provide more for the company in terms of hard work and dedication. When employees stay for a long period with the company, for the outside world and a prospective employee, it is a sign of a good workplace. Employees who have high morale will also find out ways to improve the condition of the present workplace.

Now that we have given you enough reasons that would convince you to use the Kaizen philosophy in your office, here are some of the ways in which you can implement them in your office:

13. Find out the ‘latent problems’ in your office

Ask the employees in your office to find out small problems that they have been facing in the workplace. Even finding the smallest of problems might make a huge difference to the entire office’s productivity when you resolve them. The Kaizen philosophy tells you that all problems have a solution and all you need to do is to have an open and creative mind that will solve the issue.

After you submit the problem, all the employees will sit together and try to come up with a creative solution that nulls the problem. More than one solution is found out so that after implementing all of them, the best one can be found out. The only intention of such an exercise is to find out the best solution to the problems that your business faces.

The ‘small problems’ that we mentioned might be something that most of your employees wouldn’t have bothered to let you know since they would have assumed that it was too small to complain about. But this is the kind of assumption that is never going to help your business. The Kaizen philosophy breaks this kind of thinking.

Now that we have sorted this, let’s discuss how to distinguish a few terms randomly thrown around when discussing the Kaizen way. Also, here are some reminders that you may want to know.

  • Suggestion box

Also called a Kaizen board, suggestion boxes can be used to get inputs from employees of all levels. While a suggestion box as a standalone solution will not create any ripple because it is too difficult to bring in such a culture where any issues are immediately resolved by bringing it to the management. You need to create a culture where any inefficiency, disadvantage or drawback is brought to the immediate notice of the management. In fact, give your employees the full-freedom to find out gaps in not only processes but in the way how clients are treated, employees are addressed and so on. You can do this by placing a suggestion box at important places in the workplace or even use an online document where this can be done.

  • Kaizen board

Well, a Kaizen board is still the good old notice board, but with a twist. There are so many ways in which you can organize your office, personal life and so on. Kaizen helps you improve the processes and entire operations in the office by prioritizing and categorizing the work that needs to be done.

You can categorize the ideas that are being floated in the following ways:

New Ideas: This is where all the new ideas that are being floated are listed out with the intention of completing it at a particular time.

Things-to-do: All the activities that are supposed to be completed are mentioned here with a timeline while ensuring that minimum resources are only utilized.

Working on: In this board, all the activities that are currently happening will be mentioned including a mention of all the people who are working on it including a timeline when the tasks will be completed.

Done: After a task is completed in the ‘Working on’ board, they are transferred to the ‘Done’ board.

  • Create Kaizen reports

A Kaizen report is a simple activity that explains in detail about the before and after of a problem. It explains the following in detail about the state of the issue before it was sorted: It explains the problem that cropped up. It also talks about the subsequent action that was taken to mitigate the severity of the problem. The final effect that happened based on the action that was taken is listed down as well.

  • Ask employees to Kaizen their jobs

For someone who doesn’t know what Kaizen is, the phrase ‘Kaizen your job itself’ might come across as a little difficult to comprehend. But for someone who is familiar with the concept of Kaizen, it is simple to understand and almost a revelation because the simple step of wanting to improve at each step might just be a game-changer. Ask all your employees to Kaizen their jobs by continually asking the question- “How can I improve working on this task?”

  • Standardize

When things are not happening your way, it is normal to get flustered and look for over the top solutions which might not always work. When you go out of your way to find solutions for things that don’t work immediately like the way you wanted, you will certainly find certain improvements.

But if you find that one of the solutions that you proposed works best, then not only should you stick to it but also make it a point to document the same and standardize it across all departments. Standardization is one of the benefits of Kaizen and it helps your organization to run smoothly thanks to the documentation part of it.

  • Don’t fret over the small stuff

While a piece of popular advice would be to not sweat the small stuff, taking care of the minutest details is also, unarguably, the one thing that big businesses do right. As they say, the devil is in the details. When you find out there is an issue, make it a point to start off small in the beginning so that you can slowly increase the pace and increase the impact. When there is an incremental impact, there is a lot that gets done when you compare it over a long period of time. The small things make a big impact over time.

Conclusion

Kaizen has become an important part of businesses recently because it tends to focus on the right elements that require change. It harps on business aspects like creating a culture of Kaizen, changing the operational structure, provides support and focuses on the right kind of execution. Not only can you use Kaizen to create high skilled workers, helps you standardize tasks, create quick processes, reduce the number of errors that happen and more.

No matter what kind of business or life you lead, there is always scope for improvement and this is when you need to utilize Kaizen to get the most out of it. Ensure your team’s ultimate success by making all your employees be responsible for upholding the kaizen principles in the workplace.

Mathew Maniyamkott
Mathew Maniyamkott

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Regular contributor to various magazines. Passionate about entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, and productivity.

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