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Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that believes “change is good”. “Kai” means change and “zen” means good. In business settings, Kaizen is also a strategic tool that brings about continuous improvement, in terms of increased productivity, superior quality, lower costs, efficient processes, increased safety and better customer experience. The word “Continuous” is worth remembering here as Kaizen is a never-ending improvement process.
The Kaizen story began after World War II when Toyota started implementing quality circles in its production processes. A group of workers identified the problems, analysed and proposed solutions to improve productivity. “The Toyota Way” later became extremely popular in the western world thanks to the work of Masaaki Imai who published his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success in 1986. The book was translated in 14 languages making Kaizen a must for any organization that wishes to bring significant improvements in their processes without making any big, radical changes.
5S of Kaizen
To support continuous improvement, Kaizen theorists recommend practising 5S which will lead to standardized processes, better time management, improved work culture, and increase in employee satisfaction. These 5S are- Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. This slide elaborates upon the 5S framework:
Kaizen Principles: Summary
- Team Effort- Implementing Kaizen is not just the job of one person or higher ups in the management but involves each and every member of the organization.
- Good Processes- Kaizen believes that good processes bring good results. If any department is performing poorly, it’s the process not the people that are at fault.
- Focus on Small, Continuous Changes- Kaizen practitioners believe that small, continuous changes bring much better results than a few drastic, big-level changes.
- See it to believe it- Kaizen practice tells you to visit the place of operation to see first hand the problems experienced and processes followed.
- Elimination of Waste- The basic objective of Kaizen is to eliminate waste called as “Muda”. It guides a business in identifying these 3 MUs- Muda (waste), Mura (inconsistency), and Muri (strain on people and machines). Here’s a slide that shows the difference between the three:
Are you following the Kaizen way in your organization? Whatever industry your business belongs to- finance, healthcare, IT, or any other, you stand to gain a lot with Kaizen. Here are 19 Kaizen PowerPoint Templates to help you get started and document all your efforts for everyone in the organization to see:
Implementing Kaizen: Step by Step Guide
The system for implementing Kaizen is called the PDCA Cycle, an iterative model of change comprising four stages- Plan, Do, Check and Act. It is a continuous activity that has to be repeated again and again. This model is also known as the Deming cycle, Shewhart cycle, and plan–do–study–act (PDSA) model.
Stage 1- Plan
1.1 - Write the Problem Statement
Identify which area or department requires improvement. Is the customer care getting poor reviews? Identify the Key Performance Indicators that show there is an actual problem. For instance, the average handle time is too high in the last quarter compared to the average handle time and so on.
1.2 - Identify Root Cause
Try to identify the reasons leading to poor performance. Remember everyone is involved in Kaizen, so you need to visit the call centre, meet the customer care representatives face to face and ask them to share the problems faced and reasons for unproductivity. You might come to know that with expansion of services, more manpower was needed but was not provided resulting in work pressure. Or they were not given proper training about the products and services resulting in confusion.
Also listen to the call recordings and experiences shared by customers to see where the team is failing and identify areas of improvement.
1.3 - Set Goals
Based on the initial data you have collected, set goals for improvement. While setting goals, try adhering to the SMART model i.e. the goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. For example, your goals could be to hire 50 new customer reps in a month, hold exhaustive training sessions twice a week and reduce average handle time from 5 minutes to 3.5 minutes.
1.4 - Prepare Detailed Action Plan
Now is the time to prepare a detailed action plan by involving all the stakeholders. If the goals require efforts by the HR department, team leaders, staff or any specific department, involve them in preparing a detailed action plan. Try to answer the below 5Ws and 1H while doing so. The point is that it is fact and data-driven and encompasses all the relevant criteria like time and ownership.
Stage 2: Do
2.1 - Collect and Analyze Data
We need hard facts and reliable data to recognise the patterns. Is the lower conversion on your site a seasonal fluctuation or has it been a downhill after the introduction of new interface? Data collected for the past few years helps you arrive at reliable conclusions.
You can use multiple data collection tools like interviews, online surveys, telephonic chats, field studies, and so on to collect the data. Kaizen recommends visiting the shop floor (the place where actual operations take place) to see for yourself the operation in action and identify problem areas. In lean manufacturing, this concept is called gemba meaning “the real place”. Gemba kaizen suggests that whenever a problem occurs, visit the site and gather data from all sources. This is the place where the best improvement ideas will come.
Collect data for all the KPIs you have identified like lead time, cycle time, average handle time, and so on.
You can use seven basic Quality Tools at this stage for data analysis and presentation:
1. Checklist- A checklist or a checksheet is a simple way to analyse data. Rather than relying on memory, use a checklist to remember the things that need to be done or items that need to be obtained.
2. Control Chart- Are your processes under control or out of control? Use Control Charts to show how processes are changing over time. A control chart has a centerline (average), an upper limit line and a lower limit line. Plot your data on this chart and compare the same with these lines to draw conclusions.
3. Flow Chart- Visually represent the steps in a business process as it moves through various departments using a flow chart. This removes any confusion and the process is clear to all.
4. Histogram- Show the variation in sets of data using Histograms. A histogram is often confused with a bar graph but unlike bar graph, in a histogram there are no spaces between bars. Show the frequency of data using the below Histogram:
5. Scatter Diagram- Scatter Diagrams are basically line graphs but with no line. It is used to see whether a relationship exists between two items. Plot the cause on X axis and the effect on Y axis and interpret the data accordingly.
6. Cause and Effect Analysis- While analysing and visually presenting the data, one can use the Cause and Effect Analysis diagram also known as “Fishbone” diagram. Place the problem at the mouth of the fish and list the possible causes on the branches or bones of the fish. Have main categories like people, equipment, policies, and procedures as the branches and put sub-causes on the sub-branches. It is a great visual to clearly see all major and minor causes of a problem.
7. Pareto Analysis- You may also use Pareto Analysis, a statistical technique based on the 80/20 rule. According to this rule, 80% of the problems are caused by just 20% causes. While doing Pareto Analysis, you score each problem, group related problems together, and focus all your efforts on the most important causes while ignoring the smaller ones. Here’s a Pareto Chart template that you can use while doing your analysis:
2.2 Develop Solutions
After collecting and analysing the data, it’s time for all team members to have an open brainstorming session to develop solutions to the problem. You need to follow all rules of brainstorming like participation by all, no criticism of any idea, no judgmental looks, and no limitations on the number of ideas a person can share. You can follow the most popular brainstorming techniques to have a fruitful discussion round.
Stage 3- Check
The solutions developed in the previous stage need to be tested and their effectiveness measured. Upon being tested and measured, you need to:
3.1 - Ensure Goals are Satisfied
Are the goals set in the first stage being met with the solutions suggested? If not, you need to develop more effective solutions or you need to reevaluate the goals set earlier. So you need to go back to reassess your goals and see which goals were achieved and which were not.
3.2 - Implement Solutions
The success in trial phase now needs to be implemented fully to bring about Kaizen- change for good. The new way becomes the standard way and this becomes the baseline for further improvement. Maintain a standard operating sheet that will be followed by all. The standard operating sheet will lay out the work sequence to be followed, time in which the task must be finished, the inventory needed for smooth operation and safety guidelines. Here is a standard operating sheet template that you can use:
Stage 4- Act
Kaizen is a continuous process - a mindset for continuous improvement. So in this stage you need to keep monitoring the solutions, improvise them and as bottlenecks emerge, repeat the cycle once again- Plan, Do, Check, Act. This should become a culture, a habit so that you never stagnate and keep improving and improving.
At the end of the first cycle, show the Kaizen before and Kaizen after so that everybody in the organization knows the result of their efforts:
Are you motivated by this simple but powerful philosophy to bring your business on the path of improvement. Get started by using the Kaizen templates and process we have compiled under one PowerPoint file for you: