Daily Kaizen: Developing leadership from bottom up – continually

One of the most notable features of KAIZEN™ is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time. However it has been misunderstood and many feel that KAIZEN™ equals small changes. But the fact is KAIZEN™ meanseveryone involved in making improvements everywhere (in each department) and every day. KAIZEN™ is, in fact, small change. [Because the change is small, it does not require money to be spent, investment to be made].

Small change DOES NOT MEAN ‘small improvement’.

In fact, the big skill in KAIZEN™ is to identify those small changes that will bring about BIG improvement. That is what we, the consultants, bring to the table. That is what normally belongs to the arena of senior & top management.

However, those thousands of changes that are brought about in their work & in their workplaces by operators/ workmen are also legitimate kaizens – although they may each individually bring about a small improvement each…..

There are many formats and ways of doing kaizen. Kaizen Institute organizes them into three main cycles of

  • Daily Kaizen,
  • Project KAIZEN™ and
  • Support Kaizen.

Daily KAIZEN™ is the domain of small changes that can be made and reviewed within hours or a few days, and done by natural teams. Project KAIZEN™ is the domain of temporary teams making larger changes as a project which could last days or months. Support KAIZEN™ is the strategic, steering, organizing and development activities led by senior management which enables everyone to do kaizen. All three must coexist in order for sustainable excellence.

Many organizations have started implementing KAIZEN™ in order to achieve operational excellence. However, many struggle to sustain the improvements done and slide back to the point from it started. Daily KAIZEN™ is a methodology to development teams by practicing the daily routines such as:

  • Monitoring process standards
  • Identifying deviations from the standards
  • Problem solving in order to achieve standards
  • Problem solving in order to raise the standard
  • Reflecting, learning and skill building

As these practices become habit, performance improvements are sustained and further improved, creating a positive feedback loop that promotes the cultural change process. For an effective implementation of a Daily KAIZEN™ methodology, the organization design must be reviewed level by level from the front liners to the top management. The purpose is to ensure that teams have adequate support, the leaders are not spread too thin, and capable leaders are in place with clear accountabilities. This will result in fewer burdens on people and processes, more predictable output and the systematic reduction of muda (waste) and losses from the entire value chain.

 Benefits of Daily KAIZEN™ methodology are:

  • Ensure the alignment of objectives in all departments;
  • Improve Flow (Material & Information);
  • Create mechanisms for quick problem solving;
  • Creation of Standards and increase team productivity;
  • Reduce the impact of uncertainties on day-to-day basis;
  • Support the improvements made in Projects;
  • Foster the creation of a continuous improvement culture.

 At Toyota, KAIZEN™ isn’t  a set of projects or special events, rather it is an integral part of leadership. Human activity seems to be just as subject to the law of entropy as chemical reactions are: unless you add Energy to the system, it slows down and halts.

Daily KAIZEN™ can ‘t happen without  adding new Energy into the system. This is the role of the leader in supporting daily Kaizen; making sure that new energy is added, not doing the work directly. 

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