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Importance of Communication in Kaizen Culture

6 minutes, 11 seconds read

Communication in Kaizen, and any successful business, is potentially the most critical element. It is essential when managing change, and therefore something that should be planned strategically and implemented thoughtfully when driving a Kaizen initiative. A solid communications plan and open communications can set the stage for success.

What you will learn

  • Timely communications is essential
  • Communication to create and sustain a Kaizen culture
  • The importance of consistent recognition

Timely Communications

Consistent and predictable

In ancient Roman times, the emperors had a servant dedicated to repeat in victory ceremonies the phrase “memento mori“, a reminder that they will die. It was a constant repetition that the servants said in order to maintain the emperor back on Earth. While this might seem foreign today, we still have the need to remember important messages or mottos that we want people to understand in the clearest possible way. In order to achieve that we need consistent and predictable messages that can provide people with clear understanding of what we are trying to say. You can remind your subject with emails, small Kaizen gatherings or even in some of the already scheduled meeting that you have in frequent basis with your team. Of course, you know your team best and can determine the best approach for reminding them of your message.

Build trust as a leader by listening and following through on people’s ideas

Another important part of ensuring a Kaizen culture is to listen and take action on everyone’s ideas. If you want to promote the proliferation of new ideas, you need to commit to the work that will need to be done, and this starts with listening to what other people think to understand their thoughts and feelings. It’s important to listen carefully and seriously because innovation happens when everybody can promote their ideas and experiments. Moreover, it’s part of the respect that we all deserve. From here you can build upon these ideas with trackable action that is visible to all parties involved. Create a system where you can follow up with all of these improvement ideas.

Communicating to sustain a Kaizen culture

Say what is important

Steve Jobs once said that you need “bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise” to polish ideas and create great products. Whether or not we have the same abilities that Steve Jobs had, we do all have the ability to speak up in a respectable and articulate fashion for the things that are important. Be sure to communicate the things that are important to your team and talk with people to let them know that they can do this too. You will gain a lot of insight and this will establish an environment where people can flourish because they are able to express their concerns.

Check for understanding of the message

Communication is key to implementing a Continuous Improvement culture. Before you send any message, double-check the message to ensure that you are going straight to the point that you want to transmit. Then check with your people to see if the message was received in the way that you intended. You can ask questions like:

  • “What do you get from this?”
  • “What do you think can be improved?”
  • “What would you like to add to achieve our current goals?”

Get as much feedback as possible as this will give you a broad perspective of the interpretation of your message.

Check for an emotional connection to the message

As Simon Sinek mentioned in his famous TED Talk, to connect and create an emotional tie with people you need to start by explaining why are you doing whatever you are doing. Explaining your purpose or belief can make a big difference in creating an emotional connection with people and therefore creating the motivation they need in order to drive change for the better.

One of the common mistakes that people make when they are trying to communicate any message is to create a very well-crafted message with specific tasks and technical details that may be great for a robot to execute but awful for a human being to understand. In order to make an impact with your message upon your people, you need to start with the purpose of your message. Then explain how you want to achieve it and finally move on to the actual work that you are doing. Most people start this backward and so do not get the emotional connection needed in order to get things done.

Adjust how the message is delivered if there is a gap

In these times we are fortunate enough to have multiple tools that can give us access to communicate with people in almost every imaginable way. If you are seeing some gaps in the message that you are communicating, use all the tools that you think may be beneficial with this. Take in consideration the age, trends, accessibility and so on of your target audience. Sometimes it may be necessary to use a new trendy social app, other times it will be enough to use a traditional call or a simple “go to your desk and ask.”

Be sure to not overwhelm people with different tools and messages. With abundance comes a lot of noise, so the best thing that you can do is to commit to one tool and maintain the least number of channels possible.

Fine-tune and adjust the message over time

In Rever we have a saying: “This is the best way we know to execute, until we find a better way.” Change is part of every evolution, so be prepared to quickly adjust your message over time. This way you will make sure that your purpose is under constant questioning and remains relevant to your efforts. Also make sure that the feedback gathered from all stakeholders gets into any new message that you send.

Consistent Recognition

We have talked about the importance of recognition and about how this can be done, but it’s also important to mention that maintaining a fertile ground for new ideas depends upon a habit of recognizing people for their work. Most of the improvement efforts in which we participate need a well-made strategy and execution, but also a lot of motivation. In fact, one of the things that we have learned from our experience in the field is that most improvement efforts fail because of the lack of motivation from the people involved. A constructive way of keeping your team motivated is through consistent recognition that keeps them aware of the importance of their work and also gives them insight into the expectations they need to fill in to gain acknowledgment from the company.

For More Information:

How to Start a Startup: Lecture 10 – Culture (Brian Chesky, Alfred Lin)

Four Stories About Storytelling

Memento mori definition by Oxford University

Steve Jobs: The parable of the stones

Simon Sinek TED Talk


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Continuous Improvement and Kaizen

Creating and Driving a Continuous Improvement and Kaizen Culture

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