We have walked through problem definition, identification of root causes and implementing an action plan to solve the issues in your processes. Now let´s take the final step of this series; this is about the discipline of your company to embrace the wish of make things better in every opportunity: continuous improvement.
There is a discussion about definition of continuous/continual improvement. Continual improvement is used referring to general processes of improvement and encompassing “discontinuous” improvements, while Continuous improvement has a more specific focus on linear, incremental improvement within an existing process (ASQ, 2014).
Actually, the process of continuous improvement started in step 2 of this series, when we used the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” (PDCA), which is one of the most common tools used by this methodology. Even more, some practitioners also associate continuous improvement with techniques of statistical process control that you can also find in other posts of this blog.
So, How can you be part of the wave of continuously improve your process? I will talk about two concepts that will help you to get involved.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that is composed by zen = good and kai = change “the good change” (Greg, 2009); basically this is the process of making small or big changes to eliminate wastes that increase the cost without adding value to your product.
From a kaizen perspective, management has two functions: maintenance and improvement (Imai, 2012). In the understanding that the “well done” things doesn´t have to change, maintenance is about keep standards, training and discipline of the team. Improvement is increase standards, going beyond conformism leaving your comfort zone.
In the other hand, Gemba is a popularized concept that born from the words Genchi genbutsu, that are interpreted as “going to the place to see the actual situation for understanding”. The meaning is “the real place”; the idea of this concept is to have a deep understanding of processes and the flow in the organization. A good lean thinker is perfectly involved and is able to go to root causes of each problem (Liker, 2004).
Most of the times a company is unable to generate the changes that they need to be more efficient, thanks to their managers which love take decisions seating in their desks. They are far away of their Gemba and as a consequence Kaizen are far away of being effective for organization.
These two concepts are linked by common sense: go to the problem to solve it from inside.
In practice you can start meeting your team to take a walk for your operations field, the Gemba. Then identify opportunities of improvement that can be resolved with small changes, Kaizen. You don´t need a big change. Changes when are drastic are innovations, if you have one opportunity in front of you take it, but keep in mind that it is not your main goal this time. Just a small kaizen will unchain the rest.
Organize your employees, train them to understand waste generation and motivate them to give you improvement ideas, how many can they generate being in Gemba in a daily basis? A lot!
Finally: do it! Take the ideas and dare to change!
Thanks again for reading, until next one!
ASQ. (2014, Octubre 3). Quality Glossary Definition: Continuous Improvement. Retrieved Agosto 30, 2015, from asq.org: http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/continuous-improvement/overview/overview.html
Greg. (2009, Abril 10). Kaizen – Continuous improvement. Retrieved Agosto 30, 2015, from http://www.thetoyotasystem.com: http://www.thetoyotasystem.com/lean_concepts/kaizen.php
Imai, M. (2012). Gemba Kaizen. A commonsense approach to a continuous improvement strategy (2nd ed.). USA: Mc Graw Hill.
Liker, J. K. (2004). The Toyota Way. The company that invented lean production. USA: McGraw Hill.