You’ve got a business, right?
I bet I know what you want:
And happier customers.
But change doesn’t come cheap.
And it doesn’t come quick, either.
However - there is a new innovation on the cards!
Oh, it’s not new?
It’s been around since the Second World War?
The continuous improvement of business processes in small increments and iterations.
Want to standardise your processes?
Want to cut your waste?
Want your entire team to be more productive?
Then listen up.
Only a few months ago we matched a client of ours with kaizen.
They were an online retailer of novelty clothing.
And they were struggling with data entry tasks.
Well, they didn’t know they were.
It wasn’t until they did one of our process mapping workshops they realised how much they were wasting on it.
That’s wasted labour costs…
That’s wasted time…
And that’s expensive errors!
Here’s what we did:
We sorted their admin issues by creating custom automation software.
(That’s no biggie for us.)
The software took this task out of their employees hands.
There was less human error, it was quicker, and the employee could deliver value somewhere else!
But that wasn’t all.
We then showed them that they could improve all of their functions.
Yes, all of them.
Every single process could be streamlined with small improvements.
And every single employee could be more satisfied with their work.
With something called kaizen.
I’ve compiled the ultimate guide to the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen.
I’m going to cover:
What it is
Where it comes from
And how to implement it in your business
Let’s transform your company.
Talk to the Process Mapping Experts!
What Is Kaizen?
A Brief History Of Kaizen
3 Examples Of Companies Using Kaizen In The Real World
Does My Business Need Kaizen?
The Pros And Cons Of Kaizen
A Step-by-step Guide To A Kaizen Event
Anyone here speak Japanese?
Luckily ‘kaizen’ is a pretty straightforward word:
It means ‘improvement’.
It can be applied to any kind of improvement.
A sudden, large one.
A slow, iterative burn.
You name it!
But typically, the idea is to improve process and employee efficiency over time.
There are two sides to the kaizen approach:
It is an action plan
And it is a philosophy
As an action plan, Kaizen organises events (known as kaizen events) to improve specific areas of a company.
As a philosophy, it is about actively creating a new culture or mindset of improvement.
So, what’s the end goal of Kaizen?
To create a culture of continuous improvement where all employees engage in improving it.
And a kaizen event?
This is a workshop where employees brainstorm and map out potential improvements.
It follows a basic but detailed structure from plan to practice.
(I’ll cover it later.)
Kaizen follows several core principles:
Every process can be improved
Continuous, small improvements are essential to remain competitive
Errors are not caused by people but flawed processes
Every employee can help improve a business
Even the smallest changes can have a big impact
Improvements must be measurable, standardised and repeatable
Still with me?
Mirroring these core principles is that of the 8 wastes.
This includes defects, waiting time, extra motion, excess inventory, overproduction, extra processing and underutilized talent.
All of these need to be eliminated to achieve lean manufacturing.
Now we just have to go through the different Kaizen approaches.
Small, easy-to-implement changes are introduced to a business.
As soon as something is broken, it gets fixed.
An organised process of introducing changes as a system-level.
It is a strategic planning method that mainly involves senior employees and executives.
This is when kaizen practices are applied to a process and its downstream or upstream processes.
This is when several different line kaizens come together.
It structures an organisation into product lines or value streams.
So, changes in one line are implemented into other processes.
This is when all of the points of the planes are connected.
The entire organisation is therefore made up of ‘lean’ processes.
Next, we need to talk about the kaizen cycles.
There are 2 different models for implementing kaizen.
There’s the continuous improvement cycle.
And there’s the PDCA cycle.
This consists of recognising an opportunity and planning a change (plan), testing the changes in place (do), analysing the results of the change (check) and taking action based on what you learnt (act).
So - that’s how kaizen can work for your business.
But where did it come from?
Our story starts in 1940.
The US was in the middle of World War II.
They were running on limited time and resources.
They needed to find new ways to improve the use of the existing workforce and their technologies.
So, the Training Within Industry programme started to recommend that war equipment production didn’t enact large, radical changes.
When the war ended, the Americans shipped this philosophy over to Japan.
American occupation forces introduced experts to help rebuild Japanese industry.
And they planted the seed of a new mindset.
At the same time, the Civil Communications Section (CCS) was creating a management training programme that taught ‘statistical control methods’.
(It’s the use of techniques to control a process.)
By 1951, the Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) was looking into improving management skills.
They focused on 3 things:
These were incorporated in a training film that was titled "Improvement in Four Steps".
(The steps included: plan, do, check and act.)
The Japanese translation?
“Kaizen eno Yon Dankai”
It became so popular in Japan that the Emperor awarded Dr. Edwards Deming (he helped develop statistical methods training) the Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1960.
Dr Deming’s legacy lives on today with the Deming Prize. These are annual prizes for achievement in the quality and dependability of products.
Joanna Grimbley-Smith - Business Automation Expert
We also have to attribute the Kaizen approach to Kaoru Ishikawa.
He was an organisational theorist and professor at the University of Tokyo, and he is credited with defining how continuous improvement can be applied to processes.
Kaizen has a short succinct history.
(Ironically, it was rather efficient!)
But it is still leveraged by business leaders today.
Especially in industrial settings.
It’s used by business consultants to help restructure and refocus business processes.
Not convinced just yet?
Let me show you how it’s done...
We all need a ‘lil inspiration now and then.
Especially when it comes to a new concept you don’t quite trust.
If they can do it, why can’t you?
This Japanese automotive company is one of the most famous examples of kaizen in action.
In fact, they helped put it on the map.
The Toyota Production System heavily emphasises identifying problems to solve.
If an abnormality in production is noticed, everyone has to stop.
The entire team on the production line halts.
Together with the supervisor they then suggest small improvements to solve it.
Toyota has been known to use 2 different kaizen methods.
A kaizen blitz is a focused activity on a specific process
A burst is a kaizen activity on a process in the value stream
They emphasise small, gradual adjustments to how things are done.
Ever heard of Nestlé?
You can bet Kaizen got them to where they are now.
They take lean production methods very seriously.
They’ve focused on reducing waste in their operations by lowering time and resources involved.
Nestlé aims to find new ways of using their employees and technology to streamline how they work and use space.
Ford Motor Company
This American car manufacturer tacked onto the kaizen method pretty late.
In 2006, the CEO introduced the principles that helped them survive the competitive industry.
Ford today finds new ways to reduce time in even the smallest of processes.
Their aim is to correct procedures with incremental improvements so that every time it is repeated, it is that much more efficient.
See yourself among these big-shot businesses?
Well, you’re in the right place.
Every business can adopt the kaizen method.
Still not sure if it's for you?
Change is scary, after all.
To help you work out if continuous improvement is the way forward…
I’ve compiled this checklist of signs that your business needs to hold a kaizen event:
You need to solve an urgent problem that is putting your business at risk
You want to achieve a strategic goal that impacts your KPIsk
You need to identify and solve the root of issues
You want to solve cross-functional challenges
You want to sustain continuous improvement in your business
You want to introduce new employees to kaizen
Kaizen is clearly a pretty useful tool for businesses.
It’s helped industry leaders set themselves up for success since World War II…
And you can bet it’ll continue to do so in the future.
But what drew them to the kaizen philosophy in the first place?
The numerous benefits - and the dearth of negatives.
If you’re still not sure if kaizen can work for you...
I compiled a list of the pros and the cons.
Your teamwork will be better.
Who doesn’t want a tight knit workplace?
Where everyone gets involved - from executive to intern?
Kaizen events are all about working together as a team.
You find the problems as a team.
You brainstorm solutions as a team.
And you use everyone’s different perspectives to help find the solution.
Many events include employees from different departments.
This ensures no changes negatively affect other processes.
Not only can it bring the team together, it can bring departments together.
A small fix can include the entire business.
Your leadership skills will improve.
Kaizen events open a collaborative space for everyone.
But there is always a leader navigating the event.
Their job is to make sure all members are doing their bit and progress is being made.
However, it doesn’t have to be a manager taking the steering wheel.
Any employee can guide the ship.
Your efficiency will soar.
Kaizen is all about cutting down on waste.
You could be shaving minutes off a process in a factory.
Or, you could be saving seconds on a data entry task in the office.
Constantly looking for new ways to right wrongs and cut time eventually adds up.
And it can add up to a lot.
This is exactly what happened to one of our clients last year.
They were an accounting firm based in Surrey and they were looking to cut their costs.
They’d mapped their processes.
And they’d automated several departments.
They were running out of things to do!
It simply wasn’t working as they wanted.
Productivity would soar - and then it would just stop.
They wanted to consistently boost efficiency and lower their costs over time.
So that’s what we did.
We introduced their CEO to kaizen.
10 minutes into the Zoom call and he was hooked.
“Let’s do it.”
We identified a single department and then set up a workshop with all of the employees.
4 days later and they were set up for life.
They left with:
New best practices
And the ability to notice when something goes wrong
After just one workshop they learnt how to implement kaizen in the future.
So, when they noticed a problem, revamping productivity was just a departmental meeting away!
In a year, we managed to save them $40,000.
(And all we did was workshop one kaizen event for their marketing department.)
You can achieve a new set of best practices.
Your business depends on high quality process documentation.
If it doesn’t, you’re facing a big problem.
How do you train new employees?
And how do you make sure you’re doing things efficiently?
Continuously improving these best practices can streamline both of these things.
Your employee satisfaction will increase.
What happens when you improve productivity and the quality of work?
Employee retention tends to increase.
A sense of satisfaction and self-worth is priceless.
And when employees can be active in kaizen events, this is just another boost.
Let them take ownership of their processes.
Let them lead the company onwards.
Your workplace’s safety will be enhanced.
Kaizen is all about finding new ways to do things.
This isn’t just a win for efficiency.
By limiting employee intervention in processes, you limit the risk of accidents.
And when your employees feel safe at work…
You can bet they’ll be more productive, too.
There is even a specific kaizen system used to ensure better safety procedures.
Change is tough.
Businesses should always be open to change.
Not only do you have to admit that things have gone wrong…
You have to then find ways to improve it…
And then see if that has any effect.
Plus, some people at the top aren’t always happy when lower-level employees are involved in decision-making.
If you thought change was hard, communication can be even harder.
But this isn’t a flaw of kaizen.
This is a flaw within your own business.
If you can’t handle change, there’s clearly something wrong.
You will need additional employee training.
Kaizen is an employee-wide philosophy and action plan.
That means you need to teach them about kaizen events…
And then give instructions on the altered processes.
But, just like change, this isn’t a bad thing.
Being able to adapt and evolve is a good thing.
(A very good thing.)
Plus, Kaizen gives you an opportunity to get your documentation in order.
So, employee training should be no big deal, right?
I’ve convinced you, have I?
You think kaizen events can transform your business?
Well, you’ve made a good choice.
Kaizen events can do wonders for companies that want to:
But how do you go about doing one?
Stay tuned. ?
Kaizen events typically span several days with each having a different purpose.
On the first day you need to define your goals for the kaizen event.
You need to map the business processes under investigation.
And then you need to identify the waste brought to light by it.
From the process maps, align your current processes with your future strategy.
Generate clear goals and follow them.
On the second day, the root causes of the waste found needs to be identified.
By finding out what’s going wrong, you can determine the improvements that need to be in place.
Document the resources required to apply the improvements.
This is when you’ll implement the improvements.
And this is when you test the improvements you put in place.
You need to measure the results of the improvements.
Is the efficiency of the process not improving?
Is the change simply not having the intended effect?
Back to the drawing board.
Revise the improvements and then retest.
When the change has met your intended goals, get documenting.
Standardise and document the new procedures.
(You’re nearly there…)
All you need to do now is train your employees in the new work procedures...
Communicate the new changes to the entire organisation...
And celebrate your newfound efficiency!
When the kaizen event is over, make sure you keep reflecting on the improved process.
Kaizen is a mindset just as much as it is an action plan.
Need an improvement right now?
You’re in the right place.
We host process workshops that put kaizen into practice.
Just like kaizen events, we map, optimise, and document your processes.
(We even provide handy resources to help you streamline your business in the future.)
Sounds good, right?
Talk to the Process Mapping Experts!
So - Kaizen can do a lot for your business.
It’s a mindset that can turn lagging companies into agile organisations.
Fancy seeing the same results for yourself?
You know what to do…
Discover how your company can reach hyper growth with the power of automation.