A system of continuous, gradual improvement, kaizen is a Japanese word that translates ‘change for the good’. Based on the belief that there is always room for improvement, there is no such thing as status-quo. If a company were to look at the processes utilized on a daily basis, the temptation may be to remain the same. However, a company that follows the kaizen school of thought recognizes that there are incremental changes that can be made every day, leading to gradual improvement of processes.
Kaizen brings employees together across the company to create an engine that is powered by creative thought and talent. It eliminates waste and instills within the company a sense of ownership and collaboration.
There are three fundamental principles to the kaizen way of thought.
People are the most important company asset.
Processes can change through gradual improvement steps.
Any changes must be made based on actual data.
Overall support of the kaizen method must be achieved in order for the method to be successful. The Japanese model prizes education, with the continuous training and improved employee skill set. It also creates an environment where everyone works together towards the common goal of improving the company. Managers and workers work side by side towards small goals, knowing the successful completion of small events will lead to even greater goals.
Making small, gradual improvements over time will increase stability and lessen difficult problems. By analyzing existing data, an action plan can be developed that will encourage the kaizen philosophy to grow.
The cycle of the Kaizen philosophy is: Planning, Doing, Checking, Acting. Companies develop a theory about what can change, and then run an experiment to test the hypothesis. When the test is completed, the experiment can be refined or changed as needed and the process will begin again.