These tough times companies want to be as cost-efficient as possible, but at the same time, technology investment has increased manifolds. Since technology adoption involves continuous optimization and alignment of people — it automatically leads us to work on processes that lead us to the path of constant improvement or Kaizen. With just 1/10th of the startups catching up with the pace, it becomes all more important to have processes that help you define growth.
In an Agile business, Kaizen is one of the strategic tools to bring continuous improvement.
Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) is a way where people at all levels within an organization work together to achieve regular, incremental, and small improvements to the process. In a sense, it combines collective talent and common sense, within a company to create an engine for development.
To create this culture, we need to plan –
- “Why” — It is essential to understand “Why do we need improvement?” Followed by “What” and “How.” It involves multiple workshops/brainstorming sessions involving relevant stakeholders across the organization
- As an action, once we know the purpose of achieving “Kaizen”, engage stakeholders, implement — improvement across various areas and monitor them to get continuous feedback.
While the following is essential,
- Discipline at work
- Quality of the processes
- Teamwork and harmonious working atmosphere
- Morale and collegiality
The cycle that is also referred to as PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, and Act) is needed to create a compelling and harmonious period —
- Plan (develop a hypothesis)
- Do (run experiment)
- Check (evaluate results)
- Act (refine your trial; then start a new cycle)
But to support continuous improvement and to keep patrons striving to achieve Kaizen, theorists recommend practicing 5S, which will lead to standardized processes, better time management, improved work culture, and an increase in employee satisfaction. So what exactly does 5S stand for?
1. Sort (Seiri) — Removing all unnecessary processes/workflows from the workplace. The following needs to be kept in mind to implement Sort -
- Is this item needed?
- If it is required, is it required in this quantity?
- If it is required, how frequently is it used?
- If it is required, should it be located here?
2. Set In Order (Seiton) — Creating a specific location for everything. We need following to implement Set in Order -
- Who is ultimately responsible for the item?
- The process/workflow in the holding area should be analyzed — If the process/workflow are not needed for work, they should be disposed of. It is always necessary to verify plans to dispose of process/workflow with anyone who has been using these process/workflow in the past or are presently using the same or similar things.
- The disposal can be done in either of the following ways:
- Move to other departments/sections where the process/workflow is required.
- Sell to someone outside the company.
- Discard and haul away
3. Shine (Seiso) — Clean the work area
- Dispose of all process/workflow which is broken or has no value.
- Decide which things to put where
4. Standardize (Seiketsu) — Standardise the best practice within the workplace
5. Sustain (Shitsuke) — Never slip back into the old ways
While these 5S talk about what to do to kick of continuous improvement, but they will not give you magic ingredient to achieving growth. It would help if the organization also has an atmosphere where people are encouraged, happy, and ok to stumble. As I say, for any process to yield results, it should involve people buy-in and hence an encouragement to bring in change. Therefore, if used correctly, it can take your organization to new heights.