Money Can’t Buy Continuous Improvement

Money Can’t Buy Me…

Money can buy a lot of things. Those with and without money, have various opinions on happiness, love and the power that wealth brings. Throughout time, money has allowed individuals and organizations to do both good and bad with their financial power. However, there are somethings in life and business that simply have no price tag.

From the outside looking in, the success of continuous improvement (Kaizen) is often mistaken for the company with the biggest budget, best gadgets, highest payrolls and so on. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and thankfully so.

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.

-Maya Angelou

Culture Wins Championships

Wasted MoneyFor a quick comparison lets look at American sports franchises. In 2012, of the 25 highest payrolls in American sports franchises, only one took home a title. In fact, more often than not the team with the highest payroll rarely gets fitted for a ring at the end of the season. Instead, the team with something much more valuable and sustainable tends to have the longest, most successful season.  Their secret is in their locker room not their wallets. A locker room that consists of a culture that believes in their ability to continuously improve day in and day out and a passion to do so.

Similar to sports, continuous improvement takes a culture that has a unified belief in the process and the people to be successful. Without a lean culture that is fundamentally sound and involved in the daily process, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend trying to improve.

You don’t need to spend much money to improve something. Look around and your common sense shows you simple ways to rationalize your everyday work. Most problems can be solved by common sense, and not money or high-tech equipment.

-Masaaki Imai

Mr. Imai has been considered by many to be the father of continuous improvement. His teachings of Kaizen are focused on the people and not the financial investment your organization makes. He’s further added that Kaizen is about improving everyday, everybody and everywhere.

How Can I Do This Better?

Part of the 10 Commandments to Continuous Improvement is having a “yes we can” attitude. The ultimate obstacle in your continuous improvement path is having a member of your team who doesn’t believe a challenge can be met or a process can be improved.

The common sense approach Mr. Imai speaks of is possible when the mindset of every individual truly believes everything they do, can and will be done better. They look at every situation as one that can be made more efficient and productive for themselves and others as well. Challenge individuals to make suggestions and come up with ideas to improve their work. There is no monetary value or financial incentive you can put on an individuals willingness to want to do better. It is built into them and will spread like a wildfire within your culture.

Don’t Spend To Fix

This is the ultimate trap. When you begin your Lean journey and continuous improvement process keep it simple and inexpensive. The equipment and supplies you think you need are a common misconception among Lean first-timers. Instead, focus on the people, encouraging them to be creative and innovative. From the beginning, members of the organization have to feel like they are a part of something and that their opinion means something to the group.

Building a foundation on your people and ultimately the process over a capital investment is a major key to a sustained lean culture. When people have a passion and a belief that anything is possible, there are no limits to your improvement capabilities. New machines and expensive devices are nice to look at, but they are not what’s going to take your organization to the next level. Invest in your people, not with dollars, but with trust. Make them feel like the most valuable asset to your Lean culture and watch the transformation unfold.

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