Tips Of The Trade: Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) – It’s All About The People

Many business owners try to implement a lean culture to gain efficiencies throughout their company but fail because they struggle to get the buy-in from their employees. You can’t just wave a magic wand and decide one day you’re going to become a lean organization. It takes planning and focus.

While the effort must be directed from the top of the organization, you must utilize your most valuable asset to gain the momentum needed for lasting change – your people. Don’t underestimate the knowledge your employees possess. An effective kaizen event will tap into this knowledge by having a cross functional group decide together on the best way to eliminate waste within the organization. Below is the process we went through to execute 12 successful kaizen events in the last two years.

  • Decide on the area of your business that needs the most attention.
  • Invite one or two associates from each of your departments to build a mix of talent. Optimum size is 8-15 people.
  • Schedule four days to complete the event and don’t let anything pull the team away from its mission.
  • Day one should be focused on lean education. Topics might include, “What is waste?”, “The Five S’s” and “Visual Management.” We employed a Lean Consultant to help us through the first three events and then took over the training ourselves after that.
  • The next critical step is to have the team decide what can be done to improve the area of focus chosen in step one. Use the next three days to implement these changes together. Have fun! The group will begin to see how their impact can affect the business in a positive way! This is priceless to building a lean culture.
  • Celebrate! Take time to celebrate your achievements and share your journey with the rest of your company. Everyone will want to know what’s been happening for the last few days. This will pique the interest of the remaining employees.

It’s important not to let more than 60-90 days pass before holding your next event. There is always an area that can be improved! Kaizen = Continuous Improvement so keep the momentum going and don’t let the flame fizzle out!