Kaizen, the Japanese word for “improvement”, is a concept referring to business activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Wikipedia
You run a coffee shop. The shop’s been set up in a good position. You have good beans. But still, you haven’t got the desired result. On the other hand, your next-door competitor is running a pretty successful coffee shop despite lacking those advantages you have.
In the meantime, one customer complained that the washroom is not clean enough. Another complaint was that some of the tables are shaky.
Okay, the article isn’t about how to run a good coffee shop. Perhaps, it is trying to emphasize the idea of running a business efficiently and effectively through continuous improvement.
When we talk about the idea of continuous improvement, one of the most relevant words that come first is Kaizen. Some people may define this word as philosophy, methodology, journey, concept, culture, etc that talks about how to gain continuous development. Some people may even define it as a lifestyle. So today, the topic of our discussion is Kaizen.
The literal meaning of Kaizen is “Change Good”. Kaizen is a Japanese word where Kai means ‘Change’, and Zen means ‘Good’. Kaizen is simply a method to attain continuous improvement.
We have to bring the coffee shop again. You see, when you don’t care about small things, it would cost your productivity and reputation. Because small things add up and can make something big.
The Kaizen culture motivates you to focus on small things and thus, to accomplish those small objectives timely. And at the end of the day, you will see the results in a bigger picture. It is reported that many companies including Toyota, Nestlé, Mayo Clinic, Ford Motor use the Kaizen methodology.
Kaizen tells you how to be effective in the process. To understand how Kaizen works in achieving continuous development, let’s discuss the Kaizen cycle.
Kaizen Cycle: How to attain effectiveness through a cycle
As you can see, it is basically a scientific process. It says, to achieve continuous development, you need to have great coordination. At first, have a discussion with your employees to make them engaged.
Employees are one of the most important stakeholders of the organization. Employees in operation know the problems that employees from the top layers or the owners may not know. So healthy level of participation is always valuable.
The Kaizen cycle tells you to make a list of problems to find solutions. Then you have to run a trial and error method to check what solutions are more effective. Then apply the solution and repeat the process. And again employee participation is much needed to run the process.
In Kaizen culture, another cycle is applied. This cycle is commonly known as the PDCA cycle. This is basically the adaptation of The Shewhart cycle.
Let’s talk about the coffee shop again. As you know, sadly, the shop hasn’t been successful. So we have to find out why it cannot attract customers.
Suppose, you found the problem. And the identified problem was poor customer service. After discussing with your employees, you set up a solution. Then you took some steps. You repaired shaky chairs, clean the washrooms, recruit another employee so that your team could provide better service.
After doing all of these changes, now you have to analyze the changes to check whether it was effective or not. What if you haven’t found the result. Then you have to identify the problem again. Suppose, the new change attracted the customers. So it means your plan for change works. You correctly identified the problem and changes are working. So the next thing is you have to act the solution on a loop basis. The summary is basically to plan, do, check, and act. The cycle is an ongoing process.
Both of the cycles have a similar objective that is continuous improvement. It provides efficiency in the business. There is always an opportunity to develop. When a mistake happens, you can go back to the initial phase and retest the ideas.
To run a successful business campaign, continuous improvement is necessary. The business climate is always changing. To sustain this changing climate, the business must need to be outward-looking. If you’re the owner of your business, you have to evolve your business with the new climate. Thus, it requires to have continuous improvement. Kazen is a way that motivates you to accept the changing climate.
Implementing a new idea to a business may not always end in success. Before implementing a change to your business, talk with your partners, employees are essential. Maybe the adaptation of a method can negatively affect the environment of the business. Your business structure may disrupt due to the change. Your profitability may fall as you have to give your resource and time to accept and implement a new philosophy. Financial feasibility and suitability have to be considered.