Applying the “Kaizen” Concept to Your Workplace

Source: Unsplash | andrew welch

Kaizen is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “change for the better.” Within the Kaizen system, there are no limits to how much something can improve. The beautiful thing about the Kaizen concept is that it can help create improvements in any area of life. Its most often used to help company leaders discover new and better ways of doing things.

From Origins to Practical Application: Kaizen Explained in Detail

The concept of Kaizen as an improvement technique originates from a book called “Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.” The author, Masaaki Imai, focuses on how to make gradual improvements to a company’s methods.

In the 1950s, Toyota adopted their own take on this idea. It’s believed that this played a major role in the company’s success. As the years went on, many other company leaders followed in Toyota’s footsteps.

Kaizen bundles a few concepts into one. It involves looking at each component of the business and examining how things work. By looking at things with a critical eye, you’ll learn how to make improvements. Restructuring and reorganizing will occur as needed, creating efficiency wherever possible.

There are a few steps you can take if you want to begin introducing your workplace to the Kaizen method.

Meet on a Regular Basis

In the Japanese workplace, it’s common to have daily meetings to discuss how things are going. Instead of waiting for problems to come to your attention, you stop them before they start. Going over things in more detail than you’re used to can help you spot areas of inefficiency.

It’s wise to have meetings even when things seem to be going well. Your leadership and development team needs to hear positive feedback from you. It helps them remain confident and motivated at work.

Ask for Suggestions

Within the Kaizen philosophy, everyone has a voice. Your company is a team, and every player brings something unique to the table. The entry-level employee greeting guests at the door is as important as the company’s CEO. If employees can’t come forward with suggestions, you might miss opportunities to improve efficiency.

Make sure your employees feel comfortable talking to you. Let them know that their opinions are valuable. You can provide an open forum for suggestions during meetings. A suggestion box is also an option.

Keep Track of Progress

The Japanese workplace is known for its meticulous attention to detail. This traces back to the Kaizen method. By keeping track of small changes, you improve employee performance. The documentation of these changes can be as simple or complex as you like.

It usually involves describing a problem and noting the action that you took to solve it. After some time passes, you’ll then return to the issue and check that the solution worked. Through this process, you can see how small changes affect the entire workplace.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

The Kaizen method works best when everyone considers themselves a team player. That’s why it’s important to communicate what you’re doing and why. Don’t introduce a detailed list of new requirements without an explanation.

Instead, discuss how helpful the Kaizen philosophy is proven to be. A meeting to go over the many benefits of a Kaizen attitude can be a good way to launch this change.

Kaizen isn’t so much a method as a way of thinking. If you can get your employees to understand the concept, it will begin to bleed into everything they do. They will start to do individual evaluations on themselves.

Encourage them to pay attention to the things they do and begin questioning why they do them that way. Not only can this increase efficiency in the workplace, but it can help your employees become more self-aware.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Kaizen

While the Kaizen philosophy can help your business prosper, there are some negatives. Change isn’t easy for most people. If you’re running a western company, your employees may be a bit shocked at the requirements of a Kaizen work ethic.

Switching to the Kaizen way of thinking can be hard on upper management as well as your staff. Changing the management structure at an established company is much like trying to remodel a house you’re still living in.

It can be a messy, confusing process. It’s ideal for businesses to adopt a Kaizen philosophy while they’re still gearing up. However, it’s never too late to make changes.

You should shift to the Kaizen way in phases to avoid causing discomfort or confusion to your staff. There are many ways you could do this. You could introduce the Kaizen philosophy to one department at a time, for example.

You could ramp up the number of weekly meetings at a slow pace. If any of your employees struggle with the Kaizen way of thinking at first, be sure to give them time to adjust.

Shift to a Kaizen Mindset: Get Started Today

The Kaizen method is all about baby steps. If you think things could improve at your company, now is the time to take that first step. A good way to start is by introducing your team to the general concept.

It seems like a simple idea, but deep down, many people don’t realize that the potential for improvement is almost always limitless. The Kaizen way of thinking can give people hope. In this modern business landscape, a little hope and inspiration can go a long way.