Kaizen – Continuous Improvement The Japanese Way
Interested in long term improvement? Want to know sure fire way to improve over time? Sceptic? Want some evidence?
Kaizen is what Japanese apply when they want to improve and become more productive.
Kaizen (??, Japanese for "improvement") is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life.
There are only few simple principles for Kaizen implementation. They are referred as 5S’s. This is how Masaaki Imai outlines it in his book Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management:
- Sort – Separate everything unnecessary and get rid of it. Put a red tag on unnecessary items (for example, unused machines), then remove them.
- 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.
- Scrub – Tools and workplaces should be clean. Dirt and foreign particles can cause machinery to malfunction.
- Systematize – Make a schedule for cleaning and for checking that all is in order. This ensures that housekeeping is maintained constantly.
- Standardize – Make the preceding steps part of a regular process.
Does it work?
Yeah! Does it really work? Let’s see.
- Toyota. This company is kind of success, right? Here is what they do:
The Toyota Production System is known for kaizen, where all line personnel are expected to stop their moving production line in case of any abnormality and, along with their supervisor, suggest an improvement to resolve the abnormality which may initiate a kaizen.
- Myself. I think I am success. I am no millionaire. I am regular corporate worker. Then why I count myself for successful one? I like John Wooden’s definition for success and that is why I feel I am successful:
"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable" – John Wooden.
What Kaizen does have to do with me and my success? Let’s see:
- Sort – Separate everything unnecessary and get rid of it. I practice Covey’s Important/Urgent quadrant to get rid of noise.
- Straighten – Put key items in order so they can be found readily. I am a big fan of pipeline processing.
- Scrub – Tools and workplaces should be clean. I am on tools diet. I just love utilizing familiar tools for different tasks, here are few examples:
- Systematize – Make a schedule for cleaning and for checking that all is in order. I am a big fan of checklists. Here is the whole blueprint.
- Standardize – Make the preceding steps part of a regular process. How about the whole lifecycle?
It seems I’ve been doing Kaizen all that time unconsciously. That is fine. I am only happy it worked great for me, only now I am even more confident in continuing doing it – continuous improvement, Kaizen.
- Do you separate important from noise? What’s your technique?
- Are you processing your work in ordered manner? How do you order your work items?
- Are you over-tooled, over-engineered? Do you have the tools to make your job done? Do you have more tools? Do you really need them?
- Do you check yourself periodically? Daily, weekly, monthly, annually?
- Do you have lifecycle plan of your work? Do you have lifecycle plan of your life? No? Then how do you know you are on track?