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6 Fundamentals of Kaizen Program Management

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kaizen program management

Successful Kaizen program management involves a number of different elements. There is no single change or improvement that transforms a business. It’s usually the result of combining several different philosophies or processes to achieve continuous improvement on a consistent basis. Understanding these key concepts can be transformative for organizations looking to increase productivity or eliminate waste in business. They provide a framework for project managers to follow and lead to meaningful change in both the short and long-term. In this article, we explore the six fundamentals of Kaizen program management and how you can apply them to your business.


How Kaizen Program Management Works

Before we dive into the key elements, it’s important to understand how they fit into the bigger picture. The concept of Kaizen philosophy was first shared in a book titled ‘The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success’ by Masaaki Imai. It detailed how businesses could achieve a competitive advantage by simply implementing Kaizen and adopting a continuous improvement mindset. Rather than providing a one-size-fits-all solution or prescribing specific Kaizen activities, the book explains that changing a company’s philosophy will positively influence all areas of the business.


Kaizen program management involves the implementation of both philosophies and processes. By adapting the way a company thinks, makes decisions, and goes about day-to-day tasks, significant improvements can be achieved. Sound program management is what turns the dual nature of Kaizen into tangible results. It ensures that the key principles are implemented thoughtfully and in a way that’s appropriate for the specific business in question. Let’s look at the six fundamentals it involves.


1 – Aim For Small But Consistent Execution

Kaizen is about creating a culture of continual improvement that steadily delivers results. It’s not about making big changes all at once, it’s about building up to them in a way that ensures the transformation lasts long-term. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t lead to big change – just one simple productivity improvement can lay the foundation for huge results.


Making incremental process improvement is also more manageable for most companies. It’s easier to find the time and get staff buy-in for smaller changes which is why so many companies succeed with Kaizen when other methodologies (like Six Sigma) have failed. It’s a realistic way to achieve business transformation without having to completely overhaul the way of operating. By creating cycles of change over time, the company steadily improves on a consistent basis. The key to successful Kaizen program management is acknowledging that no improvement is too small to be worthwhile. Every idea should be considered, especially in the early stages. So, gather and review feedback from all areas of the business, letting employees at all levels know that every idea has the potential to contribute.


2 – Standardize Operating Procedures

Does your company have standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are recorded and followed consistently? Without having a benchmark to start from, business analysis can be challenging and it will be almost impossible to measure improvements that stem from Kaizen events. Having well-defined SOPs also reduces the risk of defects, mistakes, and wastage. It helps new starters to get up to speed quickly and provides experienced employees with best practices to follow. So, before you commence with Kaizen project improvements or business process reengineering, ensure that SOPs exist and are being adhered to.


3 – Spot and Eliminate Waste

Most people associate waste elimination with lean manufacturing but it can actually benefit every type of business. If something doesn’t add value to the end customer, then it’s usually considered a source of waste. Activities, processes, and even entire products can be ‘waste’ if they aren’t something that a customer is willing to pay for. By eliminating all of these superfluous elements, you can focus your efforts on those things that drive the most value. Before the implementation of Kaizen, ask your employees to identify unnecessary actions, inventory, or tools that aren’t used. Value stream mapping can also help you spot waste in the supply chain. Once you identify wastage in business processes, seek out opportunities to reduce or remove it entirely. This helps to maximize productivity, efficiency, and profitability.


4 – Identify Problems in Processes Rather Than People

You might think that most mistakes are made due to human error. But Kaizen teaches people that defects are usually the result of poor processes which provide the conditions for human error. With the right process in place, the risk of errors is greatly reduced. When adequate resources are provided, training is received, and the workplace environment is optimized, mistakes rarely happen. And on those rare occasions where it does occur, a Kaizen activity can be undertaken to identify the root cause and create an action plan that stops it from happening again. Making a small improvement as soon as a flaw is identified will ensure that it doesn’t get repeated or grow into a bigger problem.


5 – Use Structured Frameworks

Using structured frameworks is a proven approach to successful Kaizen program management. The PDCA cycle, short for planning, doing, checking, and acting, is one of the most popular. It provides a structured approach for employees and project teams to follow when implementing any kind of improvement process. ‘Planning’ ensures that it aligns with organizational objectives while ‘doing’ ensures that ideas are enacted quickly. ‘Checking’ involves reviewing its success and ‘acting’ then promotes further improvements where needed. Following a simple four-step process like PDCA can also ensure employees are actively engaged by providing guidelines that are easy to remember. These means continuous improvement quickly becomes part of the everyday work culture, from plant floor employees to C-suite directors.


6 – Leverage Digital Tools

As companies use the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen to seek perfection, it can be helpful to leverage digital tools that support it. Gone are the days of suggestions boxes, spreadsheet reports, and process diagrams drawn on whiteboards. Modern technology allows you to capture ideas for transformational projects, filter out the best ones, communicate how to implement them, and measure their results. Using Kaizen software also allows companies to capture, record, and share best practices throughout their organization, leading to widespread change.


Companies that continuously improve have a distinct competitive advantage that others will find hard to match. Understanding these six fundamentals will help your Kaizen program management be successful. By applying these philosophies and principles, your business can accelerate growth, reduce waste, and maximize profitability.


Your Digital Continuous Improvement Tool

Rever is all about sharing and reusing, doing and tracking. Continuous improvement becomes a hundred times easier with our innovative digital platform. Using Rever’s dashboard, you can monitor the performance of your teams, the summary of their impact, and easily identify the people making the biggest difference at your company.


Rever Cycle is our version of the PDCA methodology and guides your teams on the exact steps to follow to execute their own ideas. It allows them to capture the entire process, from identifying a problem to experimenting and implementing a solution. They can use it to capture the before and after with pictures, notes and drawings, making their ideas a reality in no time. The time of your team is too valuable to be wasted in handmade drawings and complex explanations.


At Rever, we believe that anybody can be a knowledge worker and thrive. What makes us human is the capacity to grow our intellect and will, and to use them for good. We observe, especially at work, that most people are asked to stop thinking and do as they are told. We want to change that. We enable people to achieve their full creative potential.


Interested in learning more about Kaizen approaches or discussing case studies? Then get a demo today with one of our friendly Kaizen program management experts.

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