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Gemba Kaizen – Three Step Approach For Kick 5 S’s Management

"Gemaba Kaizen" means "workplace productivity" in Japanese. Not just productivity but effective low cost no-friction productivity.

I have read a book Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management  by Masaaki Imai. I have no doubt it is highly relevant management book for our tough times. According to the author, Toyota Motors applies similar approach which only proves its effectiveness.

The author distills the approach into three keys: Housekeeping, Cutting Muda, and Standardization.

Key #1 – Housekeeping

According to Masaaki Imai Housekeeping is key to effective management and employee self-discipline. You can describe this process with the “Five Ss.”

  1. Sort – Separate everything unnecessary and get rid of it. Put a red tag on unnecessary items (for example, unused machines), then remove them.
  2. Straighten – Put key items in order so they can be found readily. Straighten logically, so items can be located with a minimum of wasted effort.
  3. Scrub – Tools and workplaces should be clean. Dirt and foreign particles can cause machinery to malfunction.
  4. Systematize – Make a schedule for cleaning and for checking that all is in order. This ensures that housekeeping is maintained constantly.
  5. Standardize – Make the preceding steps part of a regular process.

Bullet #1 resonates a lot with Covey’s prioritization approach that I have adopted (more on it, here – Prioritize What You Do – Steven Covey Way [The Way That Works]). It really encourages spending your energy on most important things.

Bullet #2 is another view on David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) approach, using simple lists of action items that are easy to process one-by-one. Read more on it here – The Secret Behind GTD [Getting Things Done] Revealed.

Bullet #3 – more on it in the second key – Cutting Muda

Bullet #4 – I am a big fan of scheduling. In fact I treat time as budget. This helps me allocating it systematically to the most important activities that get me results – daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. More on it – Time Is Not Money. Time Is Budget.

Bullet #5 – creating a routing proves to be very effective. I applied it for my professional needs (Security Development Lifecycle, Performance Development Lifecycle) and life too – Personal Development Lifecycle.

Seems like I was practicing first key of Gemba Kaizen for some time. I can affirm it got me results I wanted.

Key #2 – Cutting Muda

Masaaki Imai suggest that the second key element Cutting Muda, or waste. Muda is anything that does not add value. Not cutting budgets, not cutting jobs – but eliminating waste. It resonates a lot with #3 in key#1 – Scrub. Everything should be clean – work desk, work plan, everything. Reduce noise, eliminate waste, focus on what’s important. Keep the objective before you.

Key #3 – Standardization

Masaaki Imai describes Standardization as the four-step, plan-do-check-act

  1. Plan – Set a goal for improvement and formulating a strategy.
  2. Do – Put the plan in motion.
  3. Check – Determine if the plan is working.
  4. Act – Standardize the new procedures.

To me such simple procedure encourages incremental results over short periods of time. It reduces the risk of low ROI when heavy investments made with minimal if any results.

Adopted Gemba Kaizen for work, adopted Gemba Kaizen for life…

Posted in: Career

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This blog is dedicated to share simple practices I that get me results.

5 Comments on "Gemba Kaizen – Three Step Approach For Kick 5 S’s Management"

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  1. Dan says:

    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  2. alik levin says:

    very cool
    i “developed” my own system to manage my time that utilizes Outlook, here:

  3. I heard of Kaizen for the first time well over a decade ago while listening to Tony Robbins. Your post resonated with me because I’ve found myself sliding into an inefficient habit–making piles of papers & articles that I can’t bear to part with–I must read them & outline them! Can’t live without them! Or so I think… You’ve helped me to tag them–just like tagging the unused machinery cited above. Once I’m done with Housekeeping, I’ll work on Keys #2 & #3. 😉 Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. alik levin says:

    I found the more i am using SHift+Delete the more I get exponential results. Remember you sent me investment insights on cutting losing stocks? same here… everything that’s off your radar get piled into waste – shift delete it ruthlessly.

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