LEAN Kaizen for Business Improvement
Originally developed by Toyota, LEAN Kaizen has become synonymous with continuous improvement. Though Kaizen was initially developed for the manufacturing sector, the Kaizen principles have since been adapted for other environments. In the UK for instance, the Kaizen methodology has become increasingly popular with both public and private sector companies as a means of engaging and empowering staff to optimise efficiency and improve the service experience for both staff and customers.
Continuous improvement through LEAN Kaizen does not usually involve throwing money at the problem. Instead, LEAN Kaizen is often about finding ways to do things smarter and eliminating any activities that waste time. The Kaizen way of working is usually readily adopted by staff as Kaizen considers them the owners of the solution, not part of the problem.
Loosely translated from Japanese, ‘Kai’ means “change” while ‘zen’ means “good or better”. Thus, Kaizen, or ‘change for the better’ is focused on identifying opportunities and implementing changes that will result in improvement.
The term “LEAN” was coined more recently by researchers as a means of describing the good practice they witnessed in the Toyota Production System. This use of the term LEAN should not be confused with the term used to describe down-sized organisations.
LEAN Kaizen helps businesses meet the challenge of doing more with the same – or less – resources. This is achieved by focusing on providing the customers with what they want when they want it (pull-based) and eliminating unnecessary steps in achieving that end.
The Kaizen principles of waste reduction, no tolerance for errors, and a customer focus can only be realised through an approach that involves and engages staff across the organisation. Though the initial Kaizen engagement may take place at management level, a LEAN Kaizen implementation actively involving those with hands-on knowledge of the work by means of a Kaizen Blitz event.
The purpose of a Kaizen Blitz event is to train and enable staff to make suggestions and implement decisions to significantly improve their work and the resulting customer experience.
As organisations embark on a LEAN Kaizen journey, ownership of Kaizen projects and initiatives transfers from the Kaizen facilitator to the organisation. The Kaizen Blitz is an excellent tool to accelerate this journey by visibly demonstrating management commitment, involving and engaging the workforce, and experiencing some early wins.