Continuous Improvement Tools

2 min read

To achieve success with Kaizen – the Japanese philosophy of change for the better – it’s beneficial to adopt some of the tools in the continuous improvement toolbox.

Kaizen Newspaper

A kaizen newspaper is a document that lists current ideas, problems, solutions, and responsible parties. The newspaper is usually in spreadsheet or chart format and it is posted so everyone can see it. The document also indicates which phase of the PDCA cycle an idea is in. The goal is to help keep people on track and prevent ideas from falling through the cracks.

Visual Boards

Some workplaces create a larger visual board where kaizen ideas are posted. Alternatively, this board can highlight kaizen successes, sort of like a kaizen “wall of fame.” Seeing these successes can do several beneficial things. It can motivate employees to find new ways to improve, it can make employees whose ideas were successful feel appreciated, and it can help everyone in the organization track progress over time. This tool can serve as a record of continuous improvement.

Suggestion Boxes

A suggestion box is a traditional method for soliciting ideas from employees, and some workplaces that use kaizen employ suggestion boxes – either physical or electronic – for submitting ideas. These boxes can be useful, but it is important for a workplace to make sure someone is checking the box regularly and responding to ideas quickly. It’s easy for suggestion boxes to get neglected, and when that happens employees may feel their ideas aren’t taken seriously. All ideas should receive a response.

Quality Circles

A quality circle is an activity that engages employees in improvement efforts regularly. Quality circles are small groups that have been used frequently in Japan. These groups often contain employees who perform similar functions in the company and they meet regularly to solve problems and discuss quality, cost, delivery, and other important topics. These circles can help people learn how kaizen works and reinforce the importance of paying attention to improvement possibilities. Implementing kaizen takes work. People need to be educated about kaizen and the role it will play in the workplace. Events may need to take place to demonstrate how improvement processes such as the SDCA and PDCA cycles work. Quality circles or other tools may be instituted and time may be scheduled for daily kaizen. Management, supervisors, and employees all need to know their roles and feel that their ideas are respected. At first, the improvements may seem small, but as time goes by, organizations using kaizen will likely see notable gains in the way processes work. Ultimately, this can lead to happier customers, which means a more successful business.


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