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Monday, September 16, 2019

Top Four Reasons Organizations Fail at Kaizen

An essential element in Lean thinking is Kaizen.  Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement or change for the better.  As no process can ever be declared perfect, there is always room for improvement.  Kaizen involves building on gains by continuing experimentation and innovation.

For businesses, the concept works to improve the performance of managers and employees, the interaction within a team, and the pursuit of better productivity. Since inception, Kaizen has been proven to help various organizations and has been long lauded as a success. However, certain conditions are needed in the corporate culture for this strategy to take effect in an organization. 

Here are four top reasons why organizations fail when implementing the concept of Kaizen.

Equates to Improved KPIs 
The over emphasis on the effect of Kaizen on KPIs would often overshadow the fact that improvements take time and are often incremental, and not revolutionary. Many cases, management write this strategy off as a failure when they do not see immediate results. Without a genuine desire to improve, the concept can not thrive within an organization. While it is crucial to tying Kaizen to KPIs, management has to understand that Kaizen is not magic, it is in fact like a snowball rolling down a gentle slope, gathering momentum and size as it comes down.

Missing Training
Kaizen will never work if people do not implement its full suite of tools and concepts, with sufficient training given to take advantage of them. All the tools, especially the 5-why analysis and the mindset that everything can be improved, is an essential part. Remember to always provide the training people need so you can not only help them become more engaged, but also improve the chances of a successful kaizen.

Lack of Management Support
The importance of support cannot be over emphasized: it is essential that management isn’t just fully on board, but essential that they want to fully embrace the long-term commitment of kaizen to the organization. They need to pass on their enthusiasm and demonstrate that even they are continually looking for new and better ways of doing things.

It’s Not Continuous
My sensei once told me: “Tim-san, improvement cannot be sustained, improvement should be non-stop”. Continuous improvement should be continuous. Never consider yourself to be finished. There will always be something new that you can learn or a skill that you can improve. There is an area for improvement in all businesses, no matter how successful they are. Improvement has no limits, and can be continued on an infinite level.

Kaizen is all about making things better in the long run, and improving your KPIs and processes gradually. It is a strategy that needs to be implemented now, for the future. However, before implementing this concept to any organization, one must evaluate and understand the organizational structure and processes, to implement Kaizen or any management strategies effectively. As I always say, there are no cookie-cutter solutions that can solve all problems.

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