The Kaizen Way of Changing Your Workplace: Continuous Improvement

Explore the 5 tenets of the Kaizen way of changing your company so it becomes continuously better.

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The Kaizen Way of Changing Your Workplace: Continuous Improvement

Here's what you need to know:

  • The 5 tenets of the Kaizen way of improvement include the mentality of incremental change and instant feedback
  • It’s important to remove unnecessary elements and focus on processes
  • Make team members accountable and empowered

If you become 1% better every day for a year, how much better would you be at the end of the year? The answer would be a surprising 37 times better than when you started the year. At the start, the 1% improvement each day doesn’t seem much, but it adds up over time.

That’s what Kaizen is all about. Even the name Kaizen, invented in Japan, means continuous improvement. And the Kaizen way of improving the workplace means taking the processes in the company and improving them little by little over time until the effects add up.

So today, we will explore the Kaizen way of changing the workplace so it becomes continuously better.

What are the 5 tenets of the Kaizen way of improvement?

Even though Kaizen is about continuous improvement, there are actually 5 pillars that enable the Kaizen approach in the workplace.

1. The mentality of incremental change

The mentality of incremental change is the most difficult part of Kaizen to embrace. We live in a world where everything moves fast and where the message of the challenge in the workplace is to adapt fast or suffer oblivion.

So creating the mentality that incremental change can have massively positive effects in time is what you’ll be working on the most in the company. If you’re going to the wrong place, speed isn’t your friend.

It’s better to take it slow and steady and ensure that you’re heading in the right direction, changing small things that still leave everyone in their comfort zones.

This change doesn’t look like change (at first) so it’s easy to get the people on board with it. Just make sure that you don’t let your people try changing too many things at the same time by a lot. Remember, consistency will beat everything over time.

2. Instant feedback

Kaizen is about continuous improvement over time. So you need to make sure that the changes you’re implementing in the workplace are positive changes that are improving the company.

To do so, you will need to create a culture of instant feedback. This is because the sooner you can receive feedback on the implemented changes, the sooner you can see if they’re bringing in the desired results.

The worst thing would be to implement a change and then realize in 6 months that the change was actually detrimental to the entire organization.

To build a culture of instant feedback, you will need to implement mechanisms that allow the team members to provide feedback on the entire system and processes. The first obstacle in the process will be creating a culture of feedback — there needs to be open communication between employees and managers since that’s the only way feedback will flow freely through the company.

Once you created a feedback culture in your organization, you should implement mechanisms (pools and questionnaires) that will allow employees to share feedback at a regular interval.

3. Remove unnecessary elements

With Kaizen, you will constantly be analyzing your products, processes, and workflows to see what you can improve continuously. During your analysis and business planning, you will find certain products and processes that are no longer necessary in your organization and you will remove them.

Kaizen will push you to remove products that are no longer selling well or that your market no longer wants to buy. It will also show you how you can shorten and change the processes and your workflows so that employees don’t waste any time on unnecessary processes. This will improve productivity all across the company and you will notice improvements to your company’s bottom line.

4. Focus on processes

Even though you can use Kaizen to improve many elements of your workplace, the bulk of that improvement will be by improving the processes. Kaizen enables you to look at every step of the process and find a way to improve each of it, even if it’s by a tiny 1%. We have seen what 1% changes can do when they add up over time.

So take your entire workflow processes and chunk them into steps. Now observe those steps and notice how you can improve each and every one of those steps so that they create more time for your employees and less waste. That’s the essence of Kaizen.

No matter how streamlined your processes are, there are always ways you can improve upon them. Maybe you can save more time for your employees by stacking (batching) tasks.

An example would be a salesperson who does sales emails and calls first. Instead of writing reports for each one after the call or email, they write the reports for all sales calls later on in a batch. This is just 1 example of how you can improve your processes in the workplace. There are certainly more ways that you can improve your workflows.

5. Make team members accountable and empowered

You won’t be able to implement Kaizen alone in your workplace — you will need the help of all of your employees. First of all, you will need to inform all of your employees that you’re starting to implement Kaizen in the workplace. This will signal to the employees that you want to hear their ideas and solutions to the problems.

Someone who worked for a couple of years in the same position will have many (incremental) ways that you can improve the processes regarding that position. After you’ve communicated to your employees that you’re expecting them to contribute to continuous improvement in the workplace, you should give them the power to do so.

Team members need to know that they can implement small changes to the process without waiting for confirmation that they can do so from upper management levels. With this practice, your team members will know that they have the power to make the change, but they will also be responsible for the implementation and results of the change.

Someone who worked for a couple of years in the same position will have many (incremental) ways that you can improve the processes regarding that position.

The final thing that you should do to empower your team members is to create an environment where they can fail safely. If employees believe that they will be punished heavily for their failures, they won’t try to implement anything new (it will stop innovation). So you will need to create an environment where employees can try out new things and not be scared of failing.

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Implementing Kaizen can provide many benefits

Implementing Kaizen in your organization will provide many benefits for your entire company. Continuous improvement over time, even small changes, will add up and create massive positive changes. And by implementing the 5 pillars of Kaizen, you will make sure that all employees are on board with the changes.

If you still need additional information that would help you implement Kaizen, check out this post: “The Most Impactful Leaders Do These 10 Things.

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