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Kaizen – a primer

File:Kaizen-3.svg - Wikimedia Commons

KAI” means Change and “ZEN” means For the Better.

KAIZEN” is the Japanese word for “improvement” which means “continuing improvement” and applicable in personal life, home life, social life and professional life.

The methodology as applied in the workplace involving everyone in the organisation viz.; entrepreneurs, owners, executives, managers and employees at all levels. “KAIZEN” is much more than just small, incremental improvements.

KAIZEN” is a gradual and long-term strategic and tactical approach to achieve organisational excellence through holistic improvement. It implies improvement every day, everywhere by everyone.

KAIZEN” methodology is being used across manufacturing, production, engineering, management and support of other business processes. “KAIZEN” is so adaptable that it can be applied to almost any type of industry including banking, government, healthcare, retail and transportation; the benefits of this amazing methodology are not limited to the world of commerce.

Masaaki Imai (born, 1930) is a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, known for his work on quality management, specifically on “Kaizen“. In 1985 he founded the Kaizen Institute Consulting Group (KICG) to help western companies introduce the concepts, systems and tools of Kaizen. “KAIZEN” was popularized by Masaaki Imai in 1986 through his best-selling book “KAIZEN : The Key To Japan’s competitive Success.”

KAIZEN“, the core is Pure improvement and encompass these:

a) Know your customer : Identify customer’s strategy and interests so you can enhance their experience and create value.

b) Let it flow: Everyone in an organisation should aim to create value and eliminate waste. This is to target and achieve zero waste.

c) Go to Gemba: Value is created where things happen in actual.

d) Empower People: Organize your team well such that the goals are well set, explained and ensure that is understood by your team and enable them with a system and tools to reach them.

e) Transparent: Establishing transparency with real data. Performance and improvements should be measurable such that it is tangible and visible to all.

KAIZEN” principles are the guiding lights, backed by a well defined action plan & systems which hits the road running. It’s all about organizing, so that the focus is always on improvement and its target are every part of the organization. Everyone is part of the process. A consistent application of the “KAIZEN” action plan leads to continuous improvements. First, take each corner of your organization and look at ways they can be improved. This will involve team collaboration and total involvement from everyone. Individuals need autonomy to take action on improvements themselves, which builds a culture of engagement. This is done with a continuing flow of suggestions and then implementing them to improve the organization.

Each event is outlined by the acronym “PDCA“, which stands for “Plan, Do, Check, Act“. Begin by setting the goals, with documentations. Conduct review of the current state is with that part of the business, define action plan & execute towards improving it. Progressively review to identify on which improvements that are implemented have worked and attempt to fix on those which hasn’t worked. Define improvements, implement and progress. Publish the results, follow-up and repeat. The idea of always making small improvements is not dissimilar to lean manufacturing, especially with the emphasis of eliminating waste. “KAIZEN“, like a lean or agile approach, works on iterations.

KAIZEN” is a disciplined way of adapting, planning, implement, generate outcomes, measure, review and progress. As this is practiced meticulously, it becomes a way of life both in personal and professional life. In order to institutionalize across the organisation and make it a regular practice, it is evident that these processes are automated by having a simple and integrated solution/product such that it is well implemented to achieve the desired goals & objectives of the organisation. Organisations around the World that has adapted to such methodologies have become successful, well established & sustained for many years. A true proven methodology to success in all respects.