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Kaizen Guide – Improve your workflow

Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy regarding continuous process improvement. Learn all about the world's most popular competitive strategy.

What is Kaizen?

Looking for ways to make your organization’s processes better? You are looking for continuous improvement. Then you may have already come across the Kaizen method.

What is Kaizen? The meaning of Kaizen is based on a set of principles that are designed to bring change. The term is composed of “Kai” (=improvement) and “Zen” (=for the better). The Kaizen-philosophy advocates small changes that build on each other, which in the long run should produce holistic improvement. It is about a continuous process instead of one-time corrective actions.

In this article you will find answers to the following questions:

1. Where does Kaizen come from?

2. What does Kaizen mean?

3. 3 advantages of the Kaizen method

4. Best practices of implementing the Kaizen process

5. What other methods benefit from kaizen?

6. How do digital technologies help implement Kaizen?

7. Spread the Kaizen mindset

Where does Kaizen come from?

Kaizen originally comes from the Japanese manufacturing technology. After the Second World War, Kaizen was first implemented as a process at Toyota. Then, in the 1980s, Masaaki Imai introduced kaizen worldwide as a method for corporate executives. Today, the method is practiced in a variety of industries and is firmly anchored in corporate concepts.

What does Kaizen mean?

Understanding and implementing the meaning of Kaizen must be learned because this method can become a challenge, especially for result-oriented companies, since successes cannot be achieved immediately, but only in long-term processes.

Companies use Kaizen form templates to gain further information about Kaizen practices to improve their workflow continually. The following four principles are essential for kaizen and help you to internalize this sustainable process

  1. Plan – An improvement topic is first identified or accepted and the cause and delimitation of the problem is carried out. Finally, problems based on the analysis can be precisely addressed through defined and planned goals.
  2. Do – Now the actual implementation must be coordinated step by step. Ideally, the tasks should be delegated to teams of experts. Furthermore, the process and the results should be well documented.
  3. Check – The results of the measures introduced should be comprehensively analyzed and checked for their efficiency.
  4. Act – When the desired goal(s) have been achieved, the required process should be defined and standardized. If the desired result was not achieved, further corrective measures must be specified, and the cyclic principle is carried out again.

3 Advantages of the Kaizen Method

The Kaizen method is considered to be partly difficult to implement, because the management has to follow the steps of sustainable practice, which is Kaizen, instead of initiating short-term immediate measures for immediate results. However, there are relevant reasons for the use of Kaizen. In the following you will find 3 important advantages for the kaizen mentality

  1. Cost saving
    The practice of constantly rethinking and testing the effectiveness of deadlocked automatisms means that practices are not retained out of habit but that the most cost-effective solution is always sought. The proactive approach also helps to anticipate larger, costly problems.
  2. Improved workflow
    Improving together through input at an enterprise-wide level creates not only a sense of internal cohesion and common goals but also promotes communication at eye level. Delegating tasks and jointly implementing and rethinking steps promotes a structured, transparent, and thus motivating corporate culture.
  3. Improved leadership skills and corporate reputation
    The approval of a ‘continuous improvement process’ proves above all the competence of managers, instead of chaotic, confusing demand-oriented management, it is planned for the long term, and goals are not set according to a subjective perspective but based on facts, which are mainly provided by employees. In this way, a respectful and trusting interaction is advocated, and the company’s reputation is positively connoted in the long run by employees and customers alike.

Best Practices of Implementing the Kaizen Process

A long-term commitment to continuous improvement is the ultimate goal of Kaizen. This requires, above all, the initiative of the executives, the management, and finally, the employees. The kaizen initiative should therefore start from the top and run through all areas of the company to achieve the so-called kaizen mentality.

Create transparency through communication

The improvement of the work can be assessed where it takes place. To this end, managers should create an open environment, encourage employees to make contributions and suggestions, and then integrate them into the improvement process. This encouragement of employees increases the motivation of individuals and promotes an independent efficiency-oriented way of working because if the management and planning of the company are constantly being reconsidered and questioned, employees are also willing to reflect this and do the same.

Perform precise analyses

Identifying a problem is usually only half the battle because it is important to determine the basic cause of the problem rather than to eliminate further side effects of the original error. A comprehensive analysis of existing data and the experience of employees is particularly effective in this context.

Realistic and comprehensible steps

The implementation of corrective measures should be coordinated. To this end, the responsible employees must be aware of the goals and the relevance of these measures for the overall corporate planning since transparency makes the task process more transparent. The corrective actions should be small, realistic tasks rather than complex projects. If the employees are well informed about their work processes and have access to sufficient information material or responsible persons, a motivated, team-oriented, and at the same time, consistently independent workflow is approved.

Make successes and opportunities visible

As soon as successes are achieved, they should be communicated and outstanding achievements should be rewarded. In addition, setbacks should be seen as opportunities and learning and thus be made visible company-wide. This creates an all-round trusting, high-performance business team.

What other methods are associated with kaizen?

The continuous improvement that characterizes Kaizen is primarily characterrized by proactive solutions. Several methods deepen the Kaizen principle and support the long-term optimization process. Learn more about these practices here:

Gemba Walk

A Gemba Walk is performed by managers to learn or review exactly how a particular process works on site and to get input from employees for improvement suggestions. Gemba Walk checklists help to identify root causes for problem-based goal setting.

5S (6s Lean)

The 5S methodology is used for the efficient design of the workplace. The aim is to achieve a minimalist, resource-saving workflow. The extension of this practice is 6s Lean. In addition to an efficiency-determined work process, safety at the workplace is also controlled and optimized.

Six Sigma

Also Six Sigma is based on the Kaizen principle and also sets itself the goal of optimization. Ideally, the highest level of qualitative work is aimed at. The 6 steps, also called DMAIC cycle, are “Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Check”

How do digital technologies help implement Kaizen?

Digital checklists allow an easy implementation and monitoring of continuous improvement efforts. The Lumiform app and software allows you to document, analyze, and audit work steps anytime, anywhere. Save time and paper and rely on minimalist and modern technologies to achieve your business goals.

Stay up to date with all the latest developments at a glance through automatic reporting and share them with the people in charge. Use the checklists, which can be flexibly adapted to your company’s needs, as useful Kaizen tools and start today with a new, more transparent and efficient corporate communication.

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Spread the Kaizen Mindset

  • Kaizen, known as the continuous improvement process, is a Japanese process that aims for long-term, sustainable success through the constant overhaul of inefficient automatisms.
  • Remember the four steps
    Plan, Do, Check, Act include a number of other kaizen tools, such as Gemba, 5s or Six Sigma.
  • With Kaizen, your company can achieve:
    cost savings, improved workflow, and strengthen the reputation of your management and the company as a whole.
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