Thursday, 29 April 2021

Kaizen improvements need to be specific

Do you find that your Kaizen improvements don't always go to plan?

If you do, then you're with the majority! Whilst there is great deal of 'trial and error' there is a simple approach that can help.

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Being specific about critical parts of your improvement can uplift your results. So, how do you go about doing this?

The most direct route is to be clear about which parts of your improvement are critical. From here you can explain, in detail, what you want for those items.

This might take some practice as many of us have become lazy in this regard. We take it for granted that our team 'get us' and will know what they need to do.


If you ever feel that something basic is missing from an improvement ask this question:


The answer should put you back on track.


About the author:

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes and embracing Kaizen.

Giles is also the author of Effective Root Cause Analysis and 'What Does Good Look Like?'.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Don't lose your improvement gains!

When you make an improvement in your business, how do you finish it?

Do you have a checklist of tasks you carry out, or do you claim that you're done?

Many businesses take the latter approach. The question is, when is your task really finished? Having a close down approach to your improvements is key to sustainable benefits.

If you recall PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act), this is very much an 'Act' issue. You've planned your improvement, you've delivered it and checked the results. Unless you need to improve the change, tying it into your business is critical.

The risk, if you don't do this, is that you lose the improvement. People are busy. Minds are busy. Trying to remember the new method of working is at risk (I find that many changes disappear within two weeks). This is the case when the new method isn't a daily task!

What can you do to help tie in your improvement to your 'business as usual'?

Two practical options are:

  1. Develop a formal routine to capture all the items you need to carry out. This should include the new improvement, of course!
  2. Link your improvement into a formal management system (such as ISO 9001 etc...) that gets reviewed and used by your team.

Tying your improvements into your business isn't complicated. Being effective is the goal.




About the author:

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes and embracing Kaizen.

Giles is also the author of Effective Root Cause Analysis and 'What Does Good Look Like?'.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Where to start with Kaizen, if you just aren't sure

Kaizen is a great word.

It is a word that can unleash the potential of both a business and an individual.

Kaizen means more than just continuous improvement. It is a word that is linked to:
  • Confidence
  • Growth
  • Exploration
  • Courage
Many people I speak to, that are new to improvement projects, aren't sure if they are on the right path when it comes to embracing the spirit of Kaizen.

If you are also one of these people then let me share with you a few thoughts that can help you feel at ease about starting and leading change.

Start with your concerns

A great place to start your improvement life is with anything that isn't right. Getting your concerns out into the open really is the first step for most of us.

If you aren't happy with something, raise it. This isn't only a great place to start, but something that you shouldn't give up. Whenever a standard is not being met, or not even defined, get vocal and then do something about it.

Start small

The intention of Kaizen is to use small steps to gather momentum and gain confidence. This approach is a psychological tool to help people avoid the 'fight or flight' response. It isn't surprising that many people feel uncomfortable when they need to start making change happen and haven't done so before.

Keep the time, the tasks and the effort low until you start to naturally feel like doing more.

Do less better

Following on with the Kaizen theme, doing less better is always a great strategy. There is nothing more wasteful than starting a whole load of improvement projects and getting nowhere.





Capture loose ends

Keeping track of where you are with your improvements is essential.

I'll keep this really simple. Write stuff down. Write down your action plans. Write down your updates. Write down the things that have to change. Write down the decisions you need to make and have made.

Don't let loose ends derail you!

Persist and evolve

Improvement projects rarely go right on the first attempt. There will be learning taking place, there will be dead ends and there will be misunderstandings.

See the bigger picture and make sure that you persist with your quest and learn as you go.

Find a friend

Undertaking improvement projects is usually easier if you have some like minded people with you on the journey.

If you can find someone that has complementary skills to yourself even better. From a Kaizen perspective, having more than just yourself getting into the thick of the change should lower the pressure on you. Lower pressure is exactly what the Kaizen approach attempts to do.

Celebrate your wins

I started off talking about getting concerned about things that aren't right. This approach needs to be balanced out by remembering the distance travelled.

It is easy to get fixated on the problems that are still in front of you. Don't get complacent, but don't become permanently grumpy either!

Keep going

The clue is in the title of 'continuous improvement', it doesn't stop!

As you get more wins under your belt, find new improvement challenges and invite more people to join you.


That should be enough to get you going. If you are looking for some structure to your personal development in this area then check out my Making It Happen toolkit.

Have fun embracing your improvements,


Giles

About the author:

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes and embracing Kaizen.

Giles is also the author of Effective Root Cause Analysis and 'What Does Good Look Like?'.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Embrace your improvement objectives, and your results!

It is funny how conversations with senior teams can turn frosty... when you get around to the topic of results. This is also the case when reviewing improvement objectives, when a similar result hasn't been produced before.

Mostly the plans are great. They take time to produce and many people enjoy the planning process.

When rubber hits the road, however, many teams seem to want to shy away.

Does this happen with your team?

A challenge for any leader in this situation is to make getting back on track with your improvement objectives a normal process. Not to hide the real position away, but to be honest about where you are and then do something about it.

The RAG approach (Red, Amber, Green) in visual management is a good tool to use here. It can make the process of being honest an easier one. Whilst you need to come up with your own definitions of red, amber and green, a good starting point is:
  • Red - completely off track and needs major support.
  • Amber - slipping off track, but should get back on track with a little bit of focus.
  • Green - on track (no need to worry).




The benefit of using an approach like this is that you can have a conversation about whether you are on track, or not. There is little good to come from hiding the real status from your colleagues and then, when the deadline is due, turn up empty handed.

It isn't fair on your colleagues and, frankly, isn't cool.

This RAG approach to reviewing your objectives is key to my Strategic Improvement Loop toolkit and can be extended to other elements of management. Action logs, order books, KPIs, management routines etc...

Now, of course, suddenly being open and honest might not be the natural method of working in your business. I hope it is, but if you have some competitive managers this might not be the most organic of approaches.

I'm sure there are many recommendations in this situation, but let me offer you two steps you can take here:
  1. Reward both honesty and results*.
  2. Lead by example.
* I note here that I don't expect any organisation to solely reward honesty if results don't follow at some point!

This change might not happen overnight. It might take a bit of practice for it to become natural and habitual. If you can get there, however, you can properly start executing plans and having grown up conversations about making change happen.

It really isn't rocket science.

Enjoying RAGging your business!

Giles


About the author:

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes and embracing Kaizen.

Giles is also the author of Effective Root Cause Analysis and 'What Does Good Look Like?'.

Avoid mistakes with your SOPs!