Kaizen is the process of Continuous improvement wherein changes are made to the organization’s process either in one go or Step by step. One of the major advantages of Kaizen is that it is continuous and not a time-bound process. We have discussed more in detail about Kaizen here.
Kaizen accepts that more optimization is always possible and it helps empower employees and managers to implement Kaizen in the organization.
Because of the benefit of continuous improvement, many managers and business owners want to implement Kaizen in their organization. How do you do that?
Here are the 7 steps to implement Kaizen in your organization
1) Involve your employees
Before you proceed to the 2nd step of Kaizen, first you need to involve your employees because it will later help you to empower your employees as well. For example – if a customer service executive has a feedback on improving the processes, then his feedback can be listened to by the managers, and he can be made individually responsible for implementing the change in the organization.
To implement Kaizen, you need your employees motivated and involved. You want to create a workplace which does not resist change and in fact which is responsible for the change. To do this, you need the full cooperation of your employees and communications between management and employees is critical.
Kaizen has the concept of Quality circles wherein there are specific circles of employees from various department who are responsible for the holistic improvement of the firm slowly but gradually.
As a result, it is imperative that you involve your employees from the first step – Finding problems and then empower them for the steps forward.
2) Find Problems
The second step to implement Kaizen is to accept and find problems in your organization. For this, you need to take a 360 degree feedback and involve your employees. You can list out all the processes within the organization which needs improvements.
It can be the customer service department, the production department, the finance department or any other place where improvements are needed. You can list out the problems and issues in a “To Do” Place. If the problems are too many, for better management, you can shortlist 10 problems and then proceed with them.
Remember, Kaizen is a continuous process and you will come back to the remaining problems later. But it is necessary to start with a small set of problems and then keep improving.
3) Think & Find Solutions
Again, this is somewhere where more brains and thoughts are much better than a single brain. Managers can make teams of creative employees who are experienced and these employees can be focused on problem-solving. They might have to dedicate specific time to find solutions to the problems the firm is facing.
The time frame is critical. We want the solutions to come forward in a relaxed and creative manner and do not shoot down any suggestion because it might come in later, even if it is not completely used and implemented. Write down the solutions, and by using your own experience and the experience of the team, shortlist the suggestions which make the most sense. You can then take these suggestions for implementation.
Small-scale implementation is the best way to test out new theories especially in larger organizations. Many people delay this stage due to overthinking, complacency or plain ignorance. They think of making organization-wide changes instead of taking small steps at a time and running new ideas in a pilot environment (a small office perhaps)
At the same time, the implementation must be done in a planned manner. If the ideas need to develop a bit more, then by all means, hold your excitement and develop the idea on the table before implementing it in the organization. However, a planned and controlled implementation is important for an idea so that the results can be tracked.
Many times during implementation, there is just communication of ideas to juniors wherein the buck is passed to someone else. This is what makes it difficult to implement Kaizen and where checking and auditing comes into play. You need to ensure that implementation is done to the ground level so that the results are proper.
As managers, you need to have the correct person at all points who is responsible for the implementation. So a manager can appoint the task to a team leader who can implement it in the team, keep checking on the progress and then revert back to the manager. From time to time audits need to be conducted and the progress needs to be found out. Finding the results is the main objective of this exercise.
If the results are not positive, you need to go back to the 3rd step wherein you implement some other ideas which were on the table. Don’t get frustrated and irritated because there are many benefits to Kaizen and slowly but surely you will notice the benefits. This is why we took only 10 tasks to improve on in the 2nd step.
However, if the results were positive and you find the process improving, then, by all means, standardize the process across all departments and across all locations so that your organization runs more smoothly and efficiently. Standardization is the best benefit of implementing Kaizen.
Standardization improves morale by a huge margin because it saves time and manpower, as a result, making employees happier and more productive. Standardization also means empowering your employees by setting standard procedures which they need to follow and by cutting the bureaucracy down to a minimum.
Now that we have optimized 10 tasks which we selected in step 2, we can then rinse and repeat the complete procedure so that further 10 tasks can be optimized. The true spirit of Kaizen is in “continuous improvement” and “slow and gradual change”. Kaizen actually means “Change is good”.
Over a period of time, it becomes a culture in the organization to eliminate waste and to improve processes so that everything runs in a well-oiled manner. Kaizen empowers your employees and creates good relations between teams so that the whole organization can holistically look towards further improvements.
This is why many Japanese companies adopt the process of Kaizen and which is why they are known as some of the most productive companies in the world.