Although in these lines we’ll address the subject of the Kaizen methodology applied to business, it can be defined, broadly speaking, as a philosophy of life seeking continuous improvement. One of the basic foundations around which it is built is that biggest changes are the result of many other smaller changes taking place over time. That’s why it is known as the practice of continuous improvement, since it’s always looking into what is wrong and, therefore, how an organization can be improved.

The Kaizen method was born during World War II in Japan. In fact, its name is the result of the combination of two Japanese words, kai, which means change, and zen, which means improvement. Troubles in the industry of the country following the strife led to engineers and scientists, among other professionals, to join forces and design a methodology in order to revitalize the sector.

The values, still applicable today, upon which the Kaizen method was built during the early days are commitment, discipline and perseverance. Likewise, it is based on the idea that excellence is unattainable, although its continuous pursuit is what helps getting closer to it. There’s always something that can be improved, so it’s not advisable to remain within a comfort zone.

How Kaizen method works

When put into practice, these notions make the Kaizen method work in cycles known by the acronym PDCA. It stands for Plan, Do, Check and Act. Said cycle is comprised of the following steps:

  1. Set clear, realistic and well-documented goals.
  2. Evaluate the overall situation and develop an optimization plan.
  3. Carry out the improvements that have been decided upon.  
  4. Review the situation and make corrections if necessary.
  5. Write a report in which results are compiled and monitoring elements are specified. 

Another similar way to implement Kaizen within a company is by following the 5S methodology. Those letters correspond to five Japanese words which are translated as follows:

Sort. Before implementing a plan, it’s necessary to distinguish between what’s necessary and what’s accessible.

Straighten. Once aware of what’s necessary, it must be arranged so that time and resources are optimized.

Shine. In order for the plan to be effective, a thorough knowledge of the company’s processes is essential, so that even the slightest issue is identified and solved.

Standardize. It’s necessary to have the best tools available, and competitive, conflict-free workers. This will help to stand out from the competition.

Sustain. Continuous improvement should be the mantra followed by the company.

Advantages of the Kaizen method

Once errors hindering the company are identified and corrected, productivity is enhanced. This is not, however, the only benefit a company obtains from implementing the Kaizen method. Among its advantages are the following:

  • Elements that don’t create value are minimized or removed, therefore improving efficiency.
  • Improvement in efficiency helps workers to reduce costs and offer a better-quality product, which brings along an increase in competitiveness in the market.
  • When employees realize that the way things get done is improved, motivation is enhanced and their level of satisfaction grows.
  • In relation to the previous point, the more satisfied an employee is, the higher his degree of commitment with the company will be. In addition, talent retention rates are improved.
  • The creation of work teams to identify issues and possible solutions makes them resilient, and bonds among the staff members become stronger.
  • By approaching the process as a search for solutions in which all employees can provide their perspective and expertise, it makes them increasingly qualified to solve issues on an ongoing basis.
  • A better service and a higher-quality product improve customer satisfaction degree eventually.

Sources: OBS,  The Leadership Network, Autoproyecto, Mujeresdeempresa.com.

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