Guest blog by Christian ten Have from Can Opener Advice
Kaizen is a business philosophy for process improvement and originates from Japan. It brings an organization into a status of control and continuous adaptation. Kaizen is based on the idea that small continuous positive changes can lead to major improvements.
Kaizen is the core of lean manufacturing, or The Toyota Way. It was developed in the processing industry to reduce defects, eliminate waste, increase productivity, promote the goal of the employee and realize innovation.
Kaizen is now used in many other industries such as healthcare. It can be applied to any area in business and even personal life.
Kaizen uses a number of tools. These are the following:
- Value Stream Mapping - document, analyze and improve the information of workflows that are needed to produce a product or service.
- Total Quality management - a management tool that engages employees at all levels to focus on quality improvement.
Regardless of which method you apply within an organization, the success of Kaizen depends on the support you receive within the organization, from the CEO and the entire management team.
10 basic principles apply to Kaizen's philosophy.
- Release assumptions.
- Be proactive in solving problems.
- Never accept the status quo.
- Let go of perfectionism and adopt an attitude of iterative, adaptive change.
- Search for solutions after you discover errors.
- Create an environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute.
- Do not accept the obvious problem; instead ask five times why "why" to find out the cause.
- Gather information and opinions from multiple people.
- Use creativity to find cheap, small improvements.
- Never stop improving.
Kaizen is based on the belief that anything and everywhere can be improved and that there is never a status quo. It is based on the Respect for People principle.
Kaizen identifies problems and opportunities, creating solutions and rolling them out. The process is then cycled again to find other problems or to correct problems that have not been adequately addressed.
Cycle for improvement
The following seven steps create a cycle for continuous improvement:
- Get employees involved
- Find problems
- Offer solutions
- Test solutions
- Analyze the results
Kaizen was invented by Toyota just after the 2nd World War. Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, is the spiritual father of Kaizen. He was always looking for improvement of his product. His hunger for improvement was never satisfied. In Japan it is called Kaizen, which means "striving for permanent improvement."
Other companies have also successfully applied the approach such as Lockheed Martin, Ford Motor Company, Pixar Animation Studios.