The Kaizen Approach (Part 4)

Constant Improvement

“A Change of Culture”

PART 4: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

This is Part 4 and the final part of my series on the Kaizen Approach, the Japanese theory that small, constant improvements to quality can lead to drastic business changes and improved performance, and thereby increased efficiencies and profits. A major idea behind this is that by a series of small improvements made continuously over a long period of time, dramatic improvements can be made.

“In order to get to the top of a mountain you must start with the first step.” — Anonymous

The Kaizen Approach is not one of drastic and novel ideas leading to new founded technology. It is one of using the current workforce and structures, and then cultivating them to adapt and to improve the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses to stay ahead of the game and to use the “Knowledge Capital” within the corporation to institute change more organically. It is also not one of ultimate goals and means to an end, but fostering and sculpting change in a constant flow of analyze, improve, and repeat — like an athlete that is constantly looking to improve their performance. Never satisfied, never finished.

In order to make these small steps, there must be some method of standardization and standard operating procedures, and there must be a set of metrics that is measurable, reliable, and improvable. This sort of reliable data lends itself well to the ideas of the Kaizen Approach, as the minor tweaks and changes are needed over time.

To develop and analyze the small changes there are some key organization and process components that must be present:

1) “SOP” – Standard Operating Procedures – Procedures that are reliable, measurable, and therefore improvable.

2) KPI – Key Performance Indicators – Indicators that tell whether the procedures can be preformed, better, faster, more efficiently

3) Statistical Sampling – numbers that may be nontraditional to give the opportunity to improve at all levels of the company

4) Reduced variability – reduce costs by reducing waste, duplication of performance, time wasting, and increased productivity.

The traditional business strategy ideas maintain that to improve quality one must increase the costs. The Kaizen approach supports just the opposite in that improved quality over time actual decreases the costs by minimizing mistakes and improving efficiencies. It calls for lean improvement of processes, to cut costs, waste and time to improve quality. Many of the ideas of the Kaizen approach are often inexpensive to implement but they require a great deal of sustained effort and management support. It goes against the traditional idea that change requires large investments in capital.

In building improvement into the regular day to day processes, companies are able to achieve step by step improvements to increase efficiencies, work flows, and achievement that are not fathomed at the beginning of the goal setting process. One where good is never quite good enough and each day should cultivate new ideas and improved business practice. The idea of continuous improvement is one that is often talked about, but must be nurtured to be successful. Implementing the Kaizen Approach can seem like a daunting task, but as the approach promotes, it can be one of step by step process to achieve fantastic results.

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