UNDERSTANDING KAIZEN | THE JAPANESE PHILOSOPHY FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
KAIZEN is a Japanese concept referring to business activities that continuously improve all functions and they involve all employees from the CEO to the daily workers. The work “KAI” means change and “ZEN” means better.
The founder of “KAIZEN” philosophy was Masaaki Imai. According to him, “KAIZEN means improvement. Moreover, it means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. When applied to the workplace KAIZEN means continuing improvement involving everyone ? managers and workers alike.”
Kaizen is applied across various processes like banking, medical sector, purchasing and logistics, government, supply chain as well as at home.
According to official Kaizen website. The 5 principles of core Kaizen are
1. Know your customer.
It is very important to know your customer and things which are of value to him and things which do not work for him. For example, suppose you open your Amazon Page, it will directly show you items that you like because it has picked up trends based on your past searches. It saves your time and you appreciate the processes and develop a long-term relationship with the organization.
2. Let it flow.
It means that we should keep things which are of value in the company and which leads to productivity. Anything which is not useful should be discarded. For Example, if an organization contains a lot of outdated computers in the warehouse, then it should remove them to make room for other things.
3. Go to Gemba.
Go to the actual place where things happen. Explore the areas where improvements are required and go to the exact location and find out processes where improvements are required. It is quite similar to the news reporters who go to the actual place to analyze the exact events.
4. Empower people.
Kaizen or improvement of processes is the responsibility of all the people in the organization from the CEO to the workers. All the employees should come up with ideas to make improvements in the processes. The company needs to empower these people and give them things they require like equipment, finance or training.
5. Be Transparent.
All the processes in the organization should be transparent and visible to all the employees as well as the customers. Only when things are transparent people can provide suggestions for improvements.
Kaizen events go in the following manner.
1. Close monitoring of all the processes of the organization by all the people working in the organization.
2. Identify areas where improvements are required.
3. List down such areas and discuss with the team.
4. There should be an agreement among all the managers that the new processes are feasible and will prove to be beneficial.
5. If there is any room for improvement, do more research but only finalize, once it is approved by all.
6. “KAIZEN” is an attitude that needs to be developed by all employees, only then they can contribute.
This type of cycle is often referred to as PDCA(Plan, Develop, Check, and Act).
Let us take a few examples of this:
Kaizen process at home.
Suppose we have a small home and we are having a shortage of space. We have a bed and a sofa which are taking up a lot of space in the room. We can check the market if there is a bed or sofa which can be used in the FOLDING form. If we get such a thing, whenever we do not require the bed or sofa, we can fold it and it will save space.
Kaizen at organization.
Suppose there are a lot of old computers in the company and it is getting very difficult to maintain them. Instead of this, a company can buy a powerful computer with more RAM and greater hard disk space so the number of computers will come down. Companies can also buy external hard disks instead of buying new computers if they require more memory.
Kaizen in education.
We have a small kid and he is learning to write. He has to frequently erase his writing with a rubber. We can provide him a pencil with a rubber on top, it will be very helpful to him and save his time.