Here are tips on how you can get your company in the mindset of continuous improvement
Have you ever met a small-business owner who was committed to making his or her company as efficient as possible — constantly tweaking, refining and seeking new opportunities for process improvement?
Well, there’s actually a word for that. It’s the Japanese term "kaizen," and it represents a business philosophy that’s oriented toward continuous improvement and personal efficiency.
Maybe you’ve never heard of kaizen before, but rest assured that it’s a big deal: It’s the guiding corporate philosophy at Toyota and has extended into businesses of all sizes, all around the world.
Kaizen is all about making your business a little better, a little more efficient each day, so the appeal is pretty obvious. How can you actually implement a kaizen-like philosophy at your company?
Getting Started With Kaizen
Here’s a general outline of what kaizen might look like within your business context:
Think in terms of processes. We often think of processes with regard to manufacturing companies, but all companies have rhythms and methodologies they use daily, weekly and monthly. Consider some of the major processes in your business. Outline the steps of each process; get those steps in writing. Really thinking out these processes is the first move toward improving them.
Empower your team members. Make sure your employees feel comfortable coming to you with suggestions for making these daily processes run smoother. That doesn’t mean you have to implement every suggestion that comes your way, but make an effort to really consider each one. Let employees know that you want their feedback and that there’s no suggestion too small to warrant a mention. Above all, don’t let your employees ever feel like they are being punished or ignored just for suggesting possible process improvements.
Adopt a “yes” mentality. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas or test-drive small changes to your workplace processes. Rather than having a default position of "no," push yourself to say "yes" to the new initiatives that are brought your way.
Remember that details matter. Kaizen is all about little tweaks and enhancements, which means you don’t have to be on the lookout for ways to reinvent the wheel. A subtle shake up to business as usual can yield significant results. Even if an improvement only saves you 10 minutes each day, that’s close to an hour each week that you can use more effectively.
Don’t make improvement an annual occurrence. Some companies only pause to reflect on their processes and to make improvements once a year or so. That’s a cycle you need to break out of if you want to be serious about kaizen. Encourage your employees to view improvement as a daily goal, not just a semiregular hoop to jump through.
Whether you want to call it kaizen or just think of it as a continual-improvement mindset, it’s something your company should consider. After all, we all want our businesses to be better and more productive, and there’s no reason why that can’t be part of your daily mission.
About the author
Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic Inc., a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California, and Dublin, Ireland. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects and often engages in content and social media marketing, drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at www.grammarchic.net.