“The Constant Pursuit of Perfection”
PART 2: A Change of Culture – Developing the Kaizen Approach
Aristotle was credited with the famous statement: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” There is power in numbers, there is knowledge in a group of individuals. It is that “knowledge capital” that many companies fail to use appropriately or even consider when looking for process improvements or ways to improve the bottom line. It’s not always large changes that drive growth or improve efficiencies, and potential small improvements are best identified by the employees doing the work day in and day out. The company committed to constant improvement finds ways to organize and access knowledge capital, to record and share knowledge that is developed and maintained by employees, so it can be recreated and scalable to other areas, departments, and personnel throughout the organization.
Not only does long term growth rely on the pursuit of constant improvement, it depends on the identification of improvements and ideas from all levels and “Quality Circles” within the corporation. Employees on the front line are the most qualified to identify key aspects that have room for improvement or road blocks to excellence. Whether it is the manufacturing plant, purchasing, marketing, or accounting, there are issues best identified by the groups with the closest experience or perspective. They are most familiar with the problems or potentials for improvement.
In the Kaizen Approach ideas come from within the existing workforce and are nurtured through quality control groups, or teams that can push each other to meet and exceed expectations. These teams actively pursue and retain the knowledge and capabilities present in a department or group. Ideas that come from within the groups are less likely to be radically different and therefore can be more easily implemented. The cohesiveness and the ability to work together can turn these ideas into what has been termed “synergies” that help mediocre organizations evolve into great organizations.
Strategy to implement the idea of constant improvement:
- Corporate Excellence: Make the idea of constant improvement a priority focus of the corporation and reinforce the strategy throughout the corporation.
- Kaizen Groups: Develop “Quality Circles” and use these circles to develop goals to maintain and improve quality at all levels and over time.
- Analyze Processes: Encourage and reward corporate improvement and excellence at both the group and individual levels.
- Access Knowledge: Access “Knowledge Capital” that is present in all levels and departments of the workforce.
- Maintain: Develop and learn from successful “Synergies” that are present in the company and make them scalable.
Companies must find ways to retain quality employees and motivate them to constantly seek ways to improve their own performance through personnel development, education and specific improvements. This culture of constant improvement does not happen accidentally or easily. It starts at the top of the organization, requires support and reinforcement by leaders at all levels, and must be accepted and believed by employees throughout the company.