A Sino-Japanese word meaning continuous improvement. It refers to the practice of improving and making all business activities more efficient and streamlined and involves all employees from the CEO to the shop floor workers.
Kaizen is not a model, or a process. Kaizen is a culture.
Continuous improvement requires continuous reflection and continuous effort.
Kaizen requires us to reflect upon current practices, current processes and current culture and then make a collective effort to work towards improving the current situation.
The strength of any business or organisation can be measured by the strength of its team, regardless of its size.
Most businesses and organisations typically have training procedures and programs for new hires at the recruitment and induction stages. However, afterwards often too much is left up to individual interpretation, and the individuals taking the initiative to voluntarily step up and contribute their ideas, time, energy and focus towards improving the policies, procedures, and the operations of the business.
Leaders can proactively take charge of this by networking within their teams and cultivating a culture of Kaizen.
I believe that leaders need to organise weekly, highly focused, and highly productive, Networking Workshop style meetings dedicated to improving every aspect of the business or organisation. These meetings require all the relevant people to come together as a team and focus on fixing or improving only one small aspect or issue.
Together, they will network and brainstorm plans, draft procedures for testing, and devise highly effective policies that everyone will be trained to follow. This constant reflection, testing and improving of the current policies, procedures and operations will compound overtime to yield extraordinary results.
Not only will this create greater focus, cohesion and build strong relationships between people from all levels of the business or organisation, but it will also create the best and most effective training processes for future hires.
These meetings are not for the directors or executives to dictate what the policies, procedures and the operations are supposed to be, but instead these meeting are where these things are discussed and developed.
This will result in a greater buy-in from everyone as they helped develop them.
I believe that it is essential to dedicate at least one hour each week to working on Kaizen. This is the time to work on the business, not in the business.
These Networking Workshops will help the everyone in the whole company to bond as a team with the specific purpose to improve the overall performance. Holding these workshops will unite everyone, create synergy, create a powerful vision, and allow the leaders to influence attitudes, ideas and the direction of the business or organisation.
The best place to start is to schedule these weekly Networking Workshops for the next entire year and add them as non-negotiable to the company’s calendar. Obviously, they need to happen during work hours, therefore, be prepared to make the necessary concessions to people’s working schedules.
Deciding on what to work on first can be a challenge when starting out. Therefore, it’s good practice to send the agenda in advance and ask people to come to the meeting with at least 3 ideas on what they believe are the most important areas that require immediate attention. Alternatively, they can be given 3 mins at the start of the meetings to think. The person leading the meeting can make a list and the list can be organised in the order of priority for future meetings.
For large organisations, or for companies where teams are spread over a wide geographical area, these Networking Workshops can be organised for different departments or teams. Holding online weekly meetings over Zoom with hundreds of people is not recommended. These meetings are most effective when attended physically.
It is the responsibility of the leader of the meeting to ensure that the meeting keeps moving and does not stagnate. Don’t be impatient. Make sure that everyone feels that their time and ideas are respected. You need to make these meetings a positive experience for all in order to get the most out of your people and the meetings.