Where Kaizen and Lean Meet
The symbiosis of Lean and Kaizen
Kaizen is an interesting concept. It’s a separate element to Lean. Lean is about waste elimination, put simply. Kaizen is the focus of continuous improvement and innovative thinking (practical wisdom, my friend Barry McCarthy calls it). The two are not mutually exclusive, but they are distinct components.
I want to talk about Kaizen because as I view it, there are a couple of ways it occurs in a business that has a Lean culture. Generally speaking, the way most people see Kaizen is through their visual management board, which is 50% KPI management and 50% problem-solving. You can see me describing a visual management board here.
In the relationship between Kaizen and Lean, Kaizen is often overlooked. We look at Lean waste identification, waste elimination tools like 5s, visual management boards and even how management should behave. What I don’t think we do enough of, particularly in Australia, is the Kaizen side of it. You can implement 5s and all the tools, but if you don’t have habits of improving and eliminating the waste – for example, ways of getting to the root cause of defects and issues, or ways and techniques of improving the capacity of a machine- you can have the place looking really spick and span, but not have the small improvement in productivity. When you have really good Kaizen happening in your business, it makes Lean go that much better.
Management vs leadership
This is partly because management and leadership are two very separate things. Management is about the focus on the KPI’s and the metrics that drive the business and having procedures in place to improve. Leadership is about taking the lead with a team and helping them to realise their full potential; getting them involved in continuous improvement, problem-solving and so on.
Kaizen as a daily practice
My thoughts on continuous improvement- the daily practice of kaizen- and the threefold approach which I have experienced:
- A deviation from the standard in our metrics identifies a problem, indicating a need for improvement. We problem solve the issue – why is the condition red, how can we improve it, can we make it better? The route cause is identified and actions are implemented to prevent it from happening again.
- Creative thinking occurs. People have ideas about ways to improve processes. These ideas are not driven by a KPI which management has set in place. Leaders encourage people to have those continuous improvement ideas – Kaizen ideas, with the view to making things better, more efficient, easier. This innovative thinking drives continuous improvement which leads to improved processes.
- Deliberate, non-reactive measurement and understanding of processes occurs, culminating in actions designed to improve those processes. Formalised Kaizen is a result of SMED or QCO initiatives. These things allow for the identification of issues that can be removed from a process, subsequently speeding it up, with less effort. Actions implemented come with an expectation of a particular goal being obtained.
All three areas are equally relevant and important.
A culture of innovative thinking
Lean production is about waste identification and elimination. Kaizen is the process that helps you to be thinking in an innovative manner, enabling the elimination of waste. The two are separate but not mutually exclusive – they have to work together. The whole point is that you are teaching, training and coaching teams to look at their process and identify where there is a waste in it from a Lean perspective. Management needs to have a culture of helping and empowering teams through leadership that allows its members to practice Kaizen on their processes, eliminating wastes. This is when you develop a true self-perpetuating culture of Kaizen and Lean.
I wanted to share with you my thoughts in relation to Lean and Kaizen, and I hope that my point of view is something that you might be able to make use of and perhaps apply at your workplace. So I wanted to talk about leadership, in the Lean and Kaizen environment, and just a…Read More
Subscribe for updates
We provide free updates and advice regularly to help you improve your business and leadership skills, and for exclusive content there is a paid subscription too!
Follow us on YouTube
Our YouTube channel is a must for Leaders in business who want to empower their teams and improve their processes. You'll find plenty of our current thinking there
Build your Capability with our Members Program
We do consulting differently, in that we believe in building your capability to improve - we want to provide you with the secrets to success, not keep it all to ourselves! Our exclusive Member Program coaches you to be a great Leader, to empower your people to drive improvement, and identify large gains in employee engagement, quality and performance.
Talk to a consultant
We love to have a chat. We also like to make sure we have time just for you. You can book a chat and we can discuss your continuous improvement journey. We are happy to provide as much obligation-free advice as we can during the call, including what would be the recommended next steps for you to take.