Tips for Lean Managers

How to Put Kaizen into Your Culture

By Jon Miller Published on December 5th, 2006

These are the two steps for how to put kaizen into your culture.
First, communicate with your people until you have a common agreement and 100% alignment on these principles:
The reason we can make our living is because we serve our customers.
Customers pay for value, as defined by them.
Most of the work we do in order to deliver value to our customers is actually waste.
The target condition is zero waste.
Nobody has achieved this target condition, therefore we strive to be the first and never give up.
All improvement ideas should eliminate one or more types of wastes.
A safe, clean and organized workplace promotes quality and productivity.
Improvement is everyone’s job.
Each one of us has the power to make things better.
The current condition is unacceptable, no matter how good we are.
Second, teach those who demonstrate behavior that contradicts the above principles, but do not tolerate such behavior from anyone.
If you have respect for people, putting kaizen into your culture is simple. I really don’t have much more to say about that.

  1. B. Sullivan

    December 7, 2006 - 4:45 am

    “All improvement ideas should eliminate one or more types of wastes” seems awful absolute.
    What about an improvement that doesn’t eliminate current waste associated with an activity (or maybe even an increases it a little) but at the same time creates major new value?

  2. Jon Miller

    December 7, 2006 - 9:02 am

    You’re right B. Absolutes are dangerous things. A net reduction in waste is what we are after, and if by reducing waste you do not improve SQDC, it’s maybe not really a waste, is it?
    For example if building up a huge inventory was of value to the customer AND they were willing to pay for it, you might want to do that. But inventory would still be a waste and this solution would not be good enough long term since when the customer changes their mind about inventory being valuable you’re stuck with a warehouse operation. You would want to increase speed and flexibility in the target condition.
    Increased motion could relieve worker pain in some examples. Increased waiting could expose other wastes, as well as relieve worker fatigue.
    I can’t think of how overproduction, defects, transportation, or processing waste could ever create value for the customer.
    In any case, by definition, if the customer values and is willing to pay for it, it is no longer a waste.

  3. Nancy Kress

    December 9, 2006 - 4:43 pm

    I can answer WHY to put kaizen into our culture. The phenomenon of nature will cause any (and likely EVERY) process to resist standardization. Kaizen allows everyone to be ready for complexity, uncertainty, instability and uniqueness – when it happens. And it will!

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