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Lean Kaizen, Small Steps to Big Change

Originating in Japan’s automotive manufacturing sector, Lean methodology was developed in an effort to increase productivity without incurring costs by minimizing waste.  To make Lean methodology application straightforward, a variety of tools were created to implement this increase in customer value.   These tools included 5S organization, Value Stream Mapping, Focus PDCA, Kanban and Kaizen.

Let’s take a look at Kaizen and how it can set a company on the path to being Lean.

What is Kaizen?

In Japanese business terminology, Kaizen translates to “improvement” or “change for the better”, which accurately describes its aim.

The Kaizen approach focuses on using the cumulative effect of small ongoing changes to individual work practices in order to get to large overall organizational improvements.  What’s different about Kaizen from other Lean approaches is that it looks to employees to help determine what improvements are required and to actively engage in the process to implement changes.  Engaging everyone from the front-line workers up to the executive echelon in improvement initiatives not only provides valuable insight into everyday practices but empowers employees by creating a feeling of ownership in the ongoing method changes. 

By making employees feel like they have a stake in the outcome, Kaizen reduces the apathy and resistance that can often become the roadblock to implementing change. 

Using Kaizen

One model for Kaizen activity is known as Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA) or the Deming Cycle.  This iterative 4-step cycle is followed for each incremental change in a continuous improvement environment in the following way:

  1. Plan:  Determine what small, incremental changes need to be made in order to reach some desired outcome
  2. Do:  Implement those changes and test them, gathering data and results along the way
  3. Check:  Evaluate data from the Do step and compare results to outcomes in the Plan step to determine what further improvements are needed to get to an ideal outcome. 
  4. Act:  Using data from the Do and Check steps, identify what issues exist on the path to change and figure out how to adjust them.  Implement the fixes so the issues don’t reoccur in the next iteration of the test. 

The cycle is then repeated until the desired outcome is reached, and then the next improvement can be tackled.

Kaizen in Consulting

Kaizen is regularly used by consultants because its approach of using small improvements allows organizations to get to their overall improvement goals by finding more manageable “quick wins”, which facilitate incremental benefits, employee engagement, and program momentum.  As a result, making changes becomes something that’s seen as manageable rather than daunting. 

Trindent utilizes this approach across all phases of client work, as it aligns with both our “fail fast” methodology and our practice of working with our clients’ staff throughout the engagement to ensure implementation becomes firmly rooted in the organization. 

At Trindent, we measure our success by our clients’ results.  Click here to find out how Trindent can work with your organization to deliver exceptional ROI within the first year.