Skip to main content

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,


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?'.

Popular posts from this blog

Take the pressure off! Using the Y-curve with your Kaizen improvements

Do you feel under pressure when you have to make changes happen in your business? It can be scary when we try something that we have never done before. I remember thinking to myself 'how on Earth am I going to figure this out?' on many occasions. I think the last time was a few weeks ago! Years on from becoming reasonable at the art of change I am still faced with the same dilemma. It is scary and it is clear to me why so many people shy away from making change happen. It is natural to get stuck in this oscillation. On one hand you need to make change happen; the business needs the improvement benefits. On the other hand you don't want to screw up... Last week I was talking to a young engineer that I am mentoring. He was paralysed. Changes were not happening at all. There was always some early promise with his projects and then, as completion (and judgement day) loomed, progress would evaporate. The engineer asked me for my views on this  during a recent conversati

Kamishibai Boards

Available to purchase here. Some tools are incredibly simple to use, and also deliver some amazing results. Kamishibai boards are a great example and are superb when you want some visual control over routine tasks. By the way Kamishibai is pronounced "come-e-she-bye" in case you were wondering! As simple as you could want it, a Kamishibai board is a T-card system that has red cards glued to green cards (so that each T-card has a red side and a green side). The red cards are for the incomplete tasks, where as the green cards symbolise that the work has been done. See the photo below of a board in use. On the red side of the card you write the name of the task that needs to be completed, and if appropriate you can include details of how the task is to be completed. This is not expected to replace standard operating procedures, but can be a good opportunity for an aide memoire. The boards can be organised for daily, weekly and even monthly cycles. They are g

Do you need a burst of improvement ideas for your business?

If you haven’t created your improvement action plan for 2020 yet then I have something for you. I have just completed my latest project – The CI Focus Tool . This Android App is now available on Google Play and provides a simple method for generating as many effective improvement ideas as you need. This is the same basic method that I describe in my book Effective Continuous Improvement  and is now available as a simple to use app. In essence it is a brainstorming focus tool. Press the focus button and you will be presented with a random continuous improvement focus. Brainstorm ideas around this focus with your team (whilst the timer is running) and there you go – a number of great ideas for you to prioritise and implement. The reason that this works so well is because of the focus. When your business runs out of its immediate problems to fix you need a different strategy. Very focused brainstorming helps you break past this problem and configuring the app to meet t