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October 17th, 2018
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy regarding how to work better that involves applying small daily changes that yield major improvements over time.
It first came about after World War II in the effort to rebuild Japan when US business consultants collaborated with Japanese companies to improve manufacturing. Kaizen is one of the core principles of Toyota, in fact they call it "The Toyota Way 2001". It has two key principles: continuous improvement and respect for people.
Kaizen isn’t just for manufacturers like Toyota where local improvements within different workstations take place – it can be applied to any business.
To ensure that Kaizen works it must be clear from the beginning that all suggestions are welcome and that there will be no negative consequences for participating. In fact, the opposite is achieved.
With Kaizen you create a culture where all employees are actively engaged in suggesting and implementing improvements. This can be through regular meetings where people are encouraged to give feedback and offer alternative ways of working to improve the business, it can be through suggestion boxes, an online form or group meeting.
With Kaizen it’s all about involving everybody in the organisation, identifying problems (big or small) and implementing a change for good. The circle of Kaizen looks like this:
1. Set goals and provide any necessary background.
2. Review the current state and develop a plan for improvements.
3. Implement improvements.
4. Review and fix anything that doesn’t work.
5. Report results and determine any follow-up items.
For Kaizen to work properly all employees must be involved and invested in the Kaizen philosophy and provide suggestions for improvements based on their observations and experience.
A couple of motivational factors for workers, other than a better way of working, is 1. the idea that they can influence the company and the work flow and 2. the idea that employees are then rewarded when successful suggestions work to improve the workplace. This means that workers will continually look for areas that can be improved and proactively work together.
With Kaizen a business will undertake a regular action plan to study the systems that are being used and how they can be improved. If they want each employee can submit suggestions using a Kaizen Action Sheet which is handwritten detailing current methods and suggested improvements with basic diagrams if needed. It looks like this:
• Kaizen teaches us that there is always room for improvement; no matter how senior or junior our roles are everyone is capable of learning from their mistakes.
• It teaches us to be flexible in our approach and to never assume your practices or suggestion is the best way of doing things.
• Kaizen gives the power to employees to make positive changes.• The culture it creates leads to an invested and loyal workforce.
• Rewarded and engaged workforces are more productive and happier.
Check out how ACS reward and engage the workforce with our A-Z of Employee Engagement here