How Many Ways Can You Do Kaizen at Your Company?

By Jon Miller Updated on May 23rd, 2017

The theme of kaizen and the human brain is one of our favorites here at Gemba, and this week’s post by Mike Lopez at the Lean blog takes on the important topic of Psychology & Lean. Mike points out that the way in which you do kaizen shouldn’t be a barrier to people with certain personalities. Specifically, Mike argues for ways to make it easier for introverts to lead kaizen events, without being exhausted by the amount of time they have to spend with people during and around kaizen events.
He makes some good points and offers remedies. Yet the fundamental premise in his situation seems to be that kaizen = kaizen events. This is too often true in many companies. There is really no good reason for having kaizen events be the main or the only way to do kaizen. How many ways can you do kaizen at your company? This is a question I am asking more and more often these days.
For too many trekkers on the Lean journey, kaizen is synonymous with kaizen events, the full-blown five-day affairs with training on the front end and a celebration on the back end. Or for Japanese-owned companies it may be a more of a rough-and-tumble gemba kaizen which is pared down to getting the improvements made in a few days. These can be team-based, but expert-driven, potentially creating barriers to total involvement.
Everyone should have at least one way to do kaizen on any given day.
Perhaps the suggestion box is the primary way kaizen is done in your organization, and if certain stumbling blocks are avoided, this can be a great way to have total involvement in kaizen. QC Circle activities are another good way for people to work on kaizen activities in small teams over longer periods of time than during a kaizen event. Managers and senior leaders can lead problem solving through jishuken initiatives or by managing through A3 reports. And the list continues to about 10 distinct ways a person can do kaizen, everyday.
It’s worth repeating, with emphasis:
Everyone. Should have. At least. One way. To do. Kaizen. Everyday.
How many ways can you do kaizen at your company?

  1. Chris Nicholls

    June 22, 2007 - 3:42 am

    Hi John
    You posed an interesting question that made me think about what we do here.
    List of ways available to do Kaizen in my Organisation:
    Applying 5S highlights a number of simple improvements to set the workplace in order and forms the basis for further Kaizen or TPM.
    Suggestion Scheme
    Encourages everyone to get involved in improvement through their own innovation and ideas and receive recognition and reward for them.
    Good Spot
    Our approach to encourage everyone to highlight any abnormalities they find to their Teamleader or Manager in order for corrective action to be taken. The best examples receiving instant reward and recognition. Many Good Spots lead on to Improvement suggestions and kaizen case studies.
    Everyone is encouraged to carryout their own simple day to day equipment maintenance and improvement.
    Kaizen (Gemba Kaizen)
    We use a systematic10 step approach incorporating many different problem solving and root cause analysis tools eg. QC 7 Tools, 5 Why, YYK, FMEA, VSM etc.
    We encourage everyone to benchmark their performance both internally and externally the gaps they find are then used as improvement targets.
    Kaizen Tour
    Every two weeks the senior managers visit a different work area to see and be presented with the latest kaizen improvements in that area by the people in that area. They give advice and structured feedback to the presenters based on the Kaizen 10 steps. This provides further opportunities for improvement (spiral-up) education. Reward and recognition is provided to the best examples, such as those improvements which are directly linked to the Hoshin, Business Direction or Strategic Management Objectives.
    Kaizen Forest
    All best practice Kaizen case studies are made available to all and used for sharing, development, and horizontal deployment.
    Kaizen Rally
    Annual event to share Plant Best in Class Improvement activities with management involvement and structured feedback. With the aim of spreading good practice Plant wide.
    Kaizen Conference
    Annual event to share Regional Best in Class Improvement activities with management involvement and structured feedback. With the aim of spreading good practice Group wide.
    I managed to think of those 10 fairly quickly I’m sure there are more but you mentioned 10 so I’ll stop now.
    Best Regards

  2. Jon

    June 22, 2007 - 4:15 pm

    Good list Chris! There’s a good mix here of steady, daily kaizen and longer-cycle events and competitions to give kaizen a periodic boost.

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