Kaizen Continuous Improvement

What is Kaizen?

Many people mistakenly think that Kaizen is only used for short-term improvement events and other one-time improvement hits. The fact is, however, Kaizen should be used to help build a culture of continuous improvement in a facility. This will include scheduled events but it should continue much longer than that. The following comments really help to illustrate the fact that while continuous improvement events are essential, they are not the sole meaning of the word:

“When we say “Kaizen” we don’t mean just improvement workshops or quick hit improvement teams – The meaning is taken from the Japanese words kai and zen where kai means change and zen means good. The popular meaning is continual improvement of all areas of a company, not just quality or performance.” – BeyondLean

By applying the Kaizen philosophy to the company as a whole, it is possible to have everyone contribute to the improvement. While many executives and managers will be driving change and improvement, it doesn’t always have to start with them. Front line employees, for example, will often be the ones to notice problems or inefficiencies in the work they are doing. When the company supports them and their willingness to make changes, these individuals will drive continuous improvement as well.

After the Kaizen Event

Another way to look at the continuous improvement in a company is by thinking about what happens in the days and weeks immediately following a Kaizen event. Do the participants go back to working as normal?  Do they actually implement the changes and improvements they learned about during the event?  While this is a good start, it needs to go much further than that.

Continuous improvement after a one of these events means that the individuals and groups which attended the event return to their day to day job and start working to identify other improvements that need to be made. While putting the training they received in the event to work, they keep an eye out for other changes which they could implement. Some of the things these individuals find may lead to future events, and others might just be a small improvement which can be implemented quickly and easily.

Kaizen Culture

If, however, a company doesn’t have an effective culture of continuous improvement, people won’t be inclined to look out for those opportunities. They may implement the changes they learned about, because they feel obligated to through their management. They won’t take the initiative, however, to watch out for further improvement opportunities. This means that the company will be losing out a lot of great insight, which only the front line employees could provide.

Continuous improvement is essential to the long term success of any company. When the management team is supportive of this culture of improvement it will not only help to streamline processes, but also improve the overall morale of everyone in the facility. Empowering individuals to identify areas where change is needed, and help to develop the processes and procedures is going to help ensure everyone is always working hard to improve the company, and themselves.

Additional Resources