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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.


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