No matter who you are or where you are in life, everyone could use a little kaizen, which in both Chinese and Japanese means improvement.
Kaizen is explained in many different ways, depending on the source you choose as your kaizen guide. In this post, we’re going to look at the different ways you can apply kaizen to your professional life and your organization.
Where to use kaizen
Kaizen is all about making continuous improvements within the workplace. These improvements can be made at various levels within your company.
You can start with kaizen for yourself to make changes that improve your own productivity and happiness. Unlike other self-improvement strategies that require you to make radical changes, kaizen encourages you to make small ones, consistently over time. Think of it like doing mini-experiments with yourself.
For example, you could start small by taking a five minute walk every day during your lunch hour instead of staying inside. After a while, you can choose to increase that time if you start seeing benefits on how you feel the rest of the day.
There are virtually hundreds of little kaizen-experiments you can start on your own with the goal of improving your professional life. As others take note of your changes, they might get on board as well.
Kaizen can also be applied to your company’s processes. Depending on the type of industry you are in, these processes could relate to the manufacturing of a product, development of software, handling of customer service issues, relaying leads from marketing to sales, getting corporate approval for local initiatives, and other similar areas.
Teams can also kaizen to improve their collaboration. In a team, each member is responsible for upholding kaizen principles to ensure the team’s ultimate success.
The 5S approach
One way to approach kaizen is through the 5S approach. The 5S’s are as follows:
Sort refers to finding and separating out the things that are not necessary. The goal of sorting is to remove the clutter and ensure that everything in your environment is of use.
When applying kaizen to yourself, this may mean sorting through your desk and removing the things that you no longer use, like old printouts or out-dated manuals.
Sorting company processes may entail the removal of an unnecessary step. For example, if you have always relied on focus groups in the past when developing new software, you may be able to eliminate this step now that you have loyal customers that you could survey instead.
In the team environment, sorting could happen by clearing out shared filing cabinets, removing old equipment that is just laying around, and other similar improvements. These don’t have to be done all at once, but rather, slowly over time.
Do you or your colleagues spend a lot of time trying to find things? Straighten refers to making sure everything is in a logical place so that it can be found quickly and easily by you and everyone around you.
In addition to straightening the physical things around your workspace and collective work environments, digital straightening should also be considered. Are all of your files in order? Can everyone on the team that needs access to them access them?
Keeping your physical working environment clean is part of the shine. It’s not only good for the things around your office, or for your health and the overall happiness of your colleagues.
For example, dust can cause machinery failure as well as allergies. Mold can be unsightly as well as unhealthy. Crumbs can cause keyboards to stick as well as bring pets into your office. Overflowing trash cans can emit an odor that triggers headaches for sensitive people.
Regular, light amounts of cleaning done consistently in an area will ensure that issues related to dirt and grime are avoided. Maintaining a schedule of who on your team will be responsible for what areas (if a cleaning service can’t be used) is the best approach and will ultimately make everyone neater in the long run.
Standardization when applied to your processes can make a world of difference in your productivity. For example, you could suggest the use of a standardized customer support platform, like Zendesk, instead of having customer contact you via a support@ email address. That way, every can easily track customer service issues.
Another standardization that can really benefit everyone is in documentation. Whenever someone new comes aboard your team, it will help them immensely if the procedures they need to follow to do their job are documented. If you can set that up for every member of your team in the same way, it can make onboarding faster and simpler.
When everyone in your work environment and on your team is able to continue with the continual improvement process, they’ll reap the benefits. Ultimately, this will ensure that chaos doesn’t take over in any area of your business, resulting in happier employees and happier clients.
To sustain kaizen, it’s important that everyone knows they have a part to play. That everyone knows when to step in if someone needs help, or fill in when someone is gone. Keeping disruptions to continuous improvement minimal will keep things moving in the right direction.
The ultimate goal of kaizen is to improve productivity, quality, morale, and profitability within a company. When each person in a team feels a sense of responsibility and ownership in areas that benefit the team and the company, everyone will benefit. Consider ways to implement kaizen in your organization to see what benefits continuous improvements can have in your business.
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