How the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen can revolutionise your work

Kaizen

Kaizen, which translates roughly to “good change,” is a Japanese productivity philosophy, used by the likes of Toyota, in their famous Toyota Production System to promote serious organizational change. The philosophy is that constant and continuous, improvement is conducive to big, long-term advancements. The Kaizen mantra is that “everything can always be improved.”

Kaizen and Market Leadership

Toyota famously embodied the Kaizen philosophy in their production warehouses. They believed that all employees should have an input into Toyota’s self-improvement, so much so, that any worker on a production line can stop the line at any time to address a perceived problem, correct an error, or suggest to management a better way to do things with the object of waste reduction and increased efficiency. The results of Toyota’s production system are phenomenal, resulting in their rapid market domination and high-profit margins. Toyota began offering instruction in the methodology to others most notably non-profit organizations with the goal of improving their efficiency and increasing their impact. After three months of working with Toyota SPB, a disaster relief organization based out of New Orleans reported that their home rebuilds had been reduced from 12 to 18 weeks to 6 weeks. Further, construction industries reported that after employing the Toyota method (Kaizen) construction errors had reduced by 50 percent.

Why Kaizen works

Kaizen means that nothing is ever seen as a status quo – there is a continuous, collective force to improve everything which results in small, often imperceptible, changes over time. These incremental changes add up to substantial long-term advancements, without having to go through any radical and often risky, innovations. It’s a much safer and employee-friendly way to instill changes that must occur for a business to be truly competitive.

How to implement Kaizen

Notably, Kaizen is a philosophy, as opposed to a methodology meaning that it can be implemented in various ways from employee suggestion boxes to more rigorous employee inclusion methods such as Total Quality Management.

The most effective way to implement Kaizen is to understand the core elements of the Japanese production system, which can and has been, successfully applied to any work environment.

Much of the focus is on reducing “waste” and this waste can be identified in the following ways;

  • Movement – moving materials (or people) around before further value can be added to them

For example, moving people to different locations for meetings when it can be done virtually or having databases of information which take time and effort to get into (such as contact details) when these could be printed and put on a wall.

  • Time – spent waiting (no value is being added during this time)

For example, enforcing prompt meetings and properly organized calls where non-attendees are reduced.

  • Defects – which require re-work or have to be thrown away

This has a lot more to do with effective delegation than employee incompetence. If a junior had been briefed properly than re-works should be eliminated – if not then it’s a hiring system failure.

  • Over-processing – doing more to the product than is necessary to give the “customer” maximum value for money

This can range from adding too much detail to presentations/document designs – streamlining decision making lines.

  • Variations – producing bespoke solutions where a standard one will work just as well.

For example, creating new documents when you could use a precedent.

For more information on Kaizen read this insightful blog by MindTools.

 

3 easy steps for instant motivation at work

Monday. 9am. You vs computer screen. Motivation = zero. You are most definitely not winning. The thing is, do you care? Maybe not in that moment. But, you will. Here are some tips to get yourself out of that slump and motivated.

3 Easy Steps

Step 1 – incentivise

Think about how great your weekend was. Think about how valuable it is to have a work-life balance. Think about how non-existent your work-life balance will become when you haven’t completed enough work for your upcoming deadline. Think about what will do once you have finished – that beer after work or that extra –  unstressed – hour you could spend with a loved one. Then, think about how the only useful thing you could be doing with your precious time whilst at work, is work.

Step 2 –  reason

Think about why you are at your computer. Yes, there might be a moralistic reason to your work but you also like your salary, don’t you? Imagine life without your salary. Then imagine life with your salary. It’s a quick and simple trick to get those fingers moving.

Step 3 – end game

This can go one of two ways. For this step to work you really do need to like your career. You have studied, trained and/or jumped through hoops of fire to get yourself where you are. If you are unhappy you need to admit this – feeling unmotivated through dissatisfaction with your career is your gut begging for honesty and cannot – unfortunately – be remedied by a self help guide you have googled on the internet. If this resonates with you then think thoroughly about whether a career change is best. Career coaches can bring you valuable clarity if you are unsure, for more information click here. For those of you happy in your career, focus on the end game. Your career has many steps and the only way to reach the next one is to keep your eyes on the prize. Just like your favourite athlete you need to adopt a winning mindset to bring home the gold, read more about this here. Don’t give your employer a reason to hire someone else over you.

Image curtesey of Vic on flickr Vic – flickr the image has not been amended.

By Leila Mezoughi

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