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Tuesday Tech Tip,October 22, 2013 Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 13:20

Kaizen, because I can.


My most favorite topic in the realm of project management was called “Kaizen”.  It’s Japanese for “good change” but as it entered into United States project management it became synonymous with concepts like continuous improvement or structure change for the better.  It encompasses all positions in the company and all functions those people may do.  It seeks to define a suffering aspect of the business that all people must do and standardize it, measure it, compare these measurements to predefined requirements, and then the fun part: innovate a new way.  Once you apply that innovation, you standardize, measure, and compare to see if that change improved your business life. 

You may have already run across this concept and called it by a different name like: Shewhart cycle, Deming cycle, or PDCA.  But, the Kaizen concept is fantastic because of how much it values the processes’ people and their abilities.

The five elements of Kaizen are:

  1. Teamwork
  2. Discipline
  3. Morale
  4. Quality Circle
  5. Suggestion for Improvement

All parties within the team need to agree that a change will do the company good and commit the self-discipline to make that change.  They need to do this out of loyalty to their company and to each other.  Morale is the key to the self-discipline it takes to stay on track for positive change and incentives can go a long way to rewarding groups making this level of effort.  But it doesn’t stop there (although in most companies it does,) a winning Kaizen endeavor also builds the quality circle where employees are encouraged to give feedback, share ideas, and bring to the table their research.  The exchange between team members is positive and encouraging so this leads to suggestions for improvement.  Suggestions are welcomed because the winning answer to saving money and improving the job is usually in the head of someone at your location already. 

Silos become a way of life far too often, where information is stored in one silo, impossible to access by another.  Projects, especially ones that improve the company, are slow to begin, slow to develop, and often take many iterations of improvement as they are released because there wasn’t the proper team building and excitement.  Many hands make light work!  Getting people involved in improvement is a great way to build morale and investment into the company. 

My favorite application of a Kaizen is the two week model as a means of its introduction into the company.  Find something small and annoying about your internal processes, and then run a Kaizen in your company.  See how differently and more effectively change can occur in the right frame of mind by gathering the people this change could affect, asking them to become disciplined and measure the process, and then look to their ideas to make the change.  Include people in success and destroy the silo.

Tuesday Tech Tip,October 15, 2013 Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 October 2013 21:07


Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail


If I were to ask you, “What are you doing this weekend?” hopefully, you would have an answer that would enhance your life in some way.  For instance, you might be helping your relative move, and incurring a favor for later.  Or, you might be going to see a movie and stimulating your imagination.  You might be prepping your yard for the winter to make the spring time work a little easier.  No matter what, you have selected what you are planning to do by weighing the benefits to your life.  Will it enhance you in the short term?  Will it enhance you in the long term?

Six Sigma teaches us that you can use a Cause-and-Effect table to help you make these kinds of decisions.  We can begin by looking at what should be measured, its performance, and what potential performance you might produce by implementing a change. Applying this type of decision making to your projects helps key in on the projects that are worthy of your time. 

Let’s go back to your weekend and this time use the Cause-and-Effect table:

Benefits Categories


Cost of Doing Nothing (1 Year)

Cost of Doing Something (1 Year)

Project Benefit

Help Aunt Ellen move

Reducing her stress and earning gratitude

She thinks she can’t depend on you and struggles through the move

Energy and Time

Gratitude and Display of affection

See a movie with Jane

Start a relationship with a nice person

Loss of interest

Price of movie tickets

Potential relationship

Visit Grandma in her retirement community

Capitalize on the time with her so there are no regrets later

Regret and heartache for the loss of time

Energy and Time

Gratitude, Display of Affection, and Good use of time

Wash the cars

Keeps the value of the car in good shape, reduction of stress

Filth and disorganization

Car cleaner, Time and Energy

Clean and organized environment, keeps the car value high


This can be applied to business where the measurements in the Cost categories and Project Benefits can be more financial in their measurements.


Then company can decrease number of scrapped units per day from 50 to 10 given a daily production volume of 1,000

50 x 100 x 365 = $1,825,000
(cost per unit scrapped is $100)

10 x 100 x 365 = $365,000



Then company can meet order commitment of 980 units per day

Company is failing on average to deliver 30 units per day and the penalty is $1 per unit not delivered



If you understand that you are essentially already thinking in such a manner, it’s easy to do this as a group with concern to your business.  It’s a fun exercise and it helps define which project could have the largest return on your investment of time and energy.


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