The Kaizen Approach (Part 1)

Kaizen - change for the better

“The Constant Pursuit of Perfection”

Part I: The Kaizen Approach

”We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max DePree

I came across this quote the other day and it caused me to reflect on how my personal goals and efforts at self-improvement can be a positive influence on my own company and the clients I work with on a daily basis. It reminds me of the Kaizen Approach, which I once studied in business school.

The Kaizen Approach emphasizes the constant and continual pursuit of improvement. It is a never-ending journey to business excellence. This approach is often touted as the primary influence behind Japanese successes in manufacturing, especially the auto industry, and it has since been adopted to fit many other industries, business structures and processes.

In fact, the Kaizen Approach aims to improve all aspects of an organization all the time. While not always an easy philosophy to instill in some organizational cultures, the endeavor of constant improvement is one that can move a company mired in mediocrity ahead of its competitors and to the top of its industry. I have chosen 3 significant tenets of the Kaizen Approach that can help influence positive change in any company that strives for success, and will be discussing them in a blog series.

Part 2: A change of culture – “Developing the Kaizen Approach” will discuss the basic ideas needed to develop the Kaizen Approach within an organization, including the development of quality circles and changing of the culture to increase expectations and influence positive change.

Part 3: “Continuous Improvement” will look at strategies that can be implemented to develop the Kaizen Approach and to encourage “continuous improvement.”

Part 4: Small Changes – “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” will explore the subtle theory of the Kaizen Approach and how small changes, standardization, and reduced variability of processes can increase efficiency.

The Kaizen Approach is the practice of continuous monitoring, reviewing, and improving. While most companies continuously monitor and review the work of employees, the long term success of companies relies on constant and continuous improvements to meet and exceed customer expectations. What are seen as the best and most progressive practices in today’s business environment will inevitably be replaced by future “latest and greatest” practices. The long term success of any organization’s ability to adapt and evolve depends on a healthy, functioning culture of seeking and embracing change.

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