Idea in short

How does change happen in your organization? Is it through major initiatives, or is it part of the ongoing way you work? Some types of change inevitably need a major project, meaning months of hard work, big budgets, and upheaval. But an alternative or complementary approach to improving systems and processes involves more subtle, ongoing changes. This approach is often undervalued. One way to do this kind of continuous, incremental improvement is Kaizen.

The objective of Kaizen is to improve productivity, reduce waste, eliminate unnecessary hard work and humanize the workplace. The major benefits of Kaizen are less waste which leads to lean operations and also improving productivity which increases the total output of the organisation with given resources.

Origin

Kaizen’s origins can be traced back to Toyota’s post-World War II implementation of quality circles in their manufacturing process. Masaaki Imai, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, specialized in quality management, particularly Kaizen. Masaaki Imai is the author of two seminal works on business process management. “Kaizen: Japanese spirit of improvement” (1985), a book that helped popularize the Kaizen concept in the West, and “Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management,” a book that helped spread the Kaizen concept in the West (1997).

The methodology

Kaizen is based on the philosophical belief that everything can be improved. It originated in Japan, and the word translates as “change (kai) for the good (Zen).”

With this approach, incremental changes add up to substantial changes over the longer term, without the need for radical innovation. It can be a much gentler and more employee-friendly way to institute the changes that must occur as a business grows and adapts to its changing environment.

Because Kaizen is a mindset rather than a mechanism, it can be found in a variety of process-improvement methods, from Total Quality Management (TQM) to the usage of employee suggestion boxes. All staff are accountable for discovering gaps and inefficiencies via Kaizen. And everyone, at all levels of the company, has ideas about how to do better things.

Kaizen is a Japanese concept that attempts to enhance production, effectiveness, and safety. People who take this strategy, however, often reap a slew of additional benefits, including:

Less waste

There is less waste since merchandise is used more efficiently and employee skills are improved.

Improved commitment

Team members have a greater emotional investment in their work and are more likely to give their all in their roles.

Improved retention

People who are happy and engaged are more inclined to stay.

Increased efficiency

Increased efficiency leads to lower prices and higher-quality products, which improves competitiveness.

Consumer satisfaction

Higher-quality items with fewer flaws implies more satisfied customers.

Improved problem solving

Seeing processes through the lens of solutions enables staff to solve problems on a constant basis.

Improved teams

Collaborating to address challenges strengthens and builds teams.

Professional application

Let’s look at the Kaizen technique used in professional setup. Kaizen is now commonly used to solve a specific issue over the period of a week, referred to as a “Kaizen blitz” or “Kaizen event” in modern use. A Kaizen event is a concentrated development effort that can achieve significant changes in a short period of time, often 2-10 days. Kaizen events should have a clear, unambiguous goal, as well as readily available resources and quick outcomes. This ensures that the outcomes are significant, clear, and timely, resulting in a high level of enthusiasm and pleasure.

10 Principles of Kaizen

The Kaizen technique is based on ten core concepts, which are listed below:

Continuously improve

Kaizen philosophy is about continuous improvement where one should always examine more deeply for the betterment of the processes

Obsolete ideas

The technique calls for discarding outdated ideas or techniques in order to keep up with the technology and avoid possible problems due to erroneous or incompatible technique

No excuses

As the process demands continuous work and going into details to keep improving, the undertaker shouldn’t give any excuses to proceed and must complete the task at that stage

Ensure the right process

Reject the current quo of putting new processes in place and thinking they’ll work

If something isn’t right, fix it

Proactively observing the processes will bring to our notice ‘the improper’, if any. Though the process might be working fine then, as long as it is not inline with the design principles, one has to improvise it to avoid problems arising in future

Encourage everyone to participate

Problem solving process requires various viewpoints, innovative thinking

Obtain information and opinions

For analyzing the problem at hand from all aspects, you should obtain the information from a variety of sources

Ask Why

To get to the fundamental cause of a problem, ask “why” questions five times before making a choice (5 Reasons Why Method)

Use your money wisely

Small upgrades can help you save money, which you can then use toward bigger ones

No limit to improvement

Keep in mind that there are no boundaries to how much you can progress, never give up trying to get better.

5W1H

5 W’s form the basis of Kaizen philosophy. Who, What, When, Where, & Why? After this comes How. The Kaizen method strives toward perfection by eliminating waste (Muda) in the workplace (Gemba).

Kaizen tools

PDCA Cycle

When implementing Kaizen concepts, PDCA cycles are frequently used. This cycle can be used by personnel at all levels of the company and is a good way to get started with Lean manufacturing. The cycle is divided into four stages: Plan > Do > Check > Act is a continuous structure for implementing and evaluating kaizen initiatives while also offering a framework for continuous improvement.

Gemba

A Japanese word that means “genuine place.” Managers and supervisors can frequently obtain useful information by visiting the production line and speaking with workers. Gemba walks, which are organised walks for managers and supervisors to watch procedures up close and speak with frontline personnel, are frequently employed.

Jishuken

Jishuken can be interpreted as self-study or autonomous study groups. This notion encourages managers to become more active and educated about the processes they are responsible for, as well as how they may enhance them.

5 Whys

When it comes to determining the root cause of a problem, this is a useful tool. It’s tough to make a significant change at work if the core problem hasn’t been addressed. The 5 Whys method is exactly what it sounds like: you should ask yourself why five times once an issue emerges.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

Mapping out processes and streams in a facility can be quite useful for a Kaizen-focused company. These maps are typically hand-drawn and include a diagram of items travelling through various job regions. Value stream maps are used to detect waste in the production process and to indicate places where improvements can be made; these potential enhancements can then be the focus of future Kaizen actions and events.

Advantages

Suitable objectives

Kaizen is a process of continuous improvement that benefits both the organization and the individual. Employees, customers, and the company as a whole benefit from it as well. Most types of enterprises can benefit from this management strategy. Employees’ efforts are recognized and rewarded through Kaizen. It provides them a sense of value in the organization as a result of this.

Improved teamwork

Improved teamwork is one of the primary Kaizen benefits. Kaizen is a team-based quality improvement tool. It benefits everyone participating in the business process, not just a chosen few. As the Kaizen team works together to solve problems, they form bonds and foster team spirit. Employees can operate with a fresh viewpoint, an unbiased mind, and without prejudice as a result of this.

Furthermore, teamwork facilitates cross-functional collaboration. Because Kaizen is implemented by skilled workers from many areas, team members can improve their talents. Most of the time, the best places to enhance are where one process flows into another. Employees with a variety of backgrounds can learn from one another and work together to solve problems through cross-functional collaborations. As a result, one Kaizen benefit is that it enhances employee teamwork and cooperation.

Enhanced leadership abilities

A team leader is required for every Kaizen team. The team leader is in charge of coordinating implementation and organizing the Kaizen team. The Kaizen team leader ensures that everyone is fulfilling their responsibilities. When extra resources are needed, the team leader is also in charge of finding them. Nonetheless, he or she does not need to be in a management position to be a team leader. Another benefit of Kaizen is that it allows employees to improve their skills.

Increased productivity

Improved efficiency is a major Kaizen benefit. Improvements in Kaizen increase service quality. It assists companies in implementing new process innovations, increasing efficiency, and improving time management. Toyota Manufacturing Company, for example, uses Kaizen in its manufacturing process. To begin with, they use muscle-memory training to teach their personnel how to put an automobile together. Muscle memory training aids them in obtaining precise results. As a result, their staff are able to work precisely.

In addition, as soon as an automotive production reaches its peak efficiency, the corporation removes a few people from the facility. Toyota Manufacturing is able to reduce errors and increase production as a result of this.

Improved Standard Work Document (SWD)

During Kaizen, improvements are implemented, resulting in a new and improved Standard Work Document. The Standard Work Document, often known as standardized work, is a tool used to implement Kaizen improvements. It contains the most up-to-date corporate best practices. This is sometimes the primary goal of Kaizen implementation. Furthermore, the Standard Work Document serves as a foundation for future enhancements. It can also be used to assess employee performance and train new staff on how to make improvements. In a nutshell, Kaizen assists firms in creating a Standard Word Document.

Improved employee satisfaction has

Another benefit of Kaizen is that it boosts employee satisfaction. When making changes for the better, Kaizen involves the workforce. Through a recommendation system, such as team meetings, employees can provide proposals and creative feedback for modifications. It provides employees a sense of belonging and worth when they are participating in decision-making.

Improved security

Improving workplace safety is a Kaizen benefit for businesses. Businesses that employ cleaning and organizing concepts boost workplace safety. Employees have better control over business process equipment as a result of this. Employees are also encouraged to offer suggestions for improving workplace safety. This reduces the likelihood of accidents and other injuries. As a result, employees become more efficient and effective time managers. Safety, on the other hand, is a managerial duty.

Waste reduction of

Kaizen is a technique for reducing waste in commercial processes. This is another significant Kaizen benefit. Everyone has a role to play in Kaizen. As a result, it is the responsibility of management and staff to detect waste in the business process. They can pinpoint the fundamental source of wastage and address it by adopting constant modifications. Waste is eliminated from the business process, and costs are lowered as a result. Furthermore, resources are employed more wisely, resulting in a more lucrative business.

Kaizen is a process of continual improvement that helps firms achieve significant success. There is no such thing as an overnight success. It necessitates a great deal of patience and hard work. This also entails identifying areas for improvement and implementing the required adjustments.

Disadvantages

Difficult implementation

Despite the numerous advantages of Kaizen, there are some drawbacks that corporate leaders should be aware of before opting to use it. This is due to the fact that adopting Kaizen entails changing present management systems. It is extremely difficult to revert to traditional management systems once Kaizen has been introduced in an organization. As a result, Kaizen may be easier to implement in companies that lack well-established management systems.

Changing a company’s entire management structure, on the other hand, is a difficult task. As a result, in order for Kaizen to be effective, firms must have an open communication policy. Employees should be able to express themselves without fear of retaliation. Many businesses, however, do not operate in this manner. Employees frequently fear that being honest with management may jeopardize their chances of advancement or other advantages.

Change difficulties

One of the most significant drawbacks is people’s aversion to change. As a result, when firms wish to implement Kaizen, they must face some opposition. Employees may not be ready to embrace a system that is different from what they are used to. Management, on the other side, may be hesitant to apply Kaizen because it is perceived to be costly.

Frictions

Furthermore, some organizations may find it challenging to adapt their current work practices when implementing Kaizen. As a result, if a company is not ready for change when implementing Kaizen, it may cause friction.

Educational requirement

Another downside of Kaizen is the training technique. This technique necessitates employee and management training in order to comprehend and apply the Kaizen philosophy. This may necessitate a change in the regular work method. Employees may be required to take time off work for training. In addition to their regular training, new staff may require Kaizen training. As a result, they may find it dull and taxing. Furthermore, the training time allocated may not be sufficient for staff to grasp the complete notion of Kaizen. As a result, personnel may be hesitant to implement a notion they are unfamiliar with.

Fading enthusiasm

Employees may be enthusiastic about making changes at first. However, their enthusiasm may fade as the changes become more difficult to adjust to. As a result, people may revert to old habits and conduct business as normal. Employees may also be disheartened and uninterested in their jobs. As a result, the time and resources spent on Kaizen implementation are wasted, and the goal of Kaizen implementation is defeated.

A few faulty eggs might sabotage the entire batch

Even if some departments adhere to the modifications that have been adopted, the overall performance of the company may suffer. True, Kaizen will benefit departments that are willing to change. Nonetheless, if other departments do not embrace the modifications, the overall output will be harmed.

Continuous improvement is a terrific strategy for a company to operate in general. Regardless, training personnel to adapt to ongoing advancements is costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, when companies pursue continuous improvement, they risk disrupting elements of their processes that are genuinely working well.

Summary

Think Insights (May 20, 2022) Kaizen: How to change for the better – the Japanese way?. Retrieved from https://thinkinsights.net/strategy/kaizen/.
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"Kaizen: How to change for the better – the Japanese way?." Think Insights - Accessed May 20, 2022. https://thinkinsights.net/strategy/kaizen/
"Kaizen: How to change for the better – the Japanese way?." Think Insights [Online]. Available: https://thinkinsights.net/strategy/kaizen/. [Accessed: May 20, 2022]