When most people think of Lean ideologies and methodologies, they think of kaizen and continuous improvement first. However as one moves deeper into Lean, you begin to add new vocabulary and processes to your Lean tool bag. Today’s word of the day: kaikaku.
Most that know or have heard of kaizen think of it as a slow continuous improvement that is necessary to sustain a successful operation. Kaikaku, on the other hand, translates to “radical improvement or change.” While the two can coincide together, they do possess stark differences in their approach, vision, and subsequent results. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two:
Kaizen Continuous Improvement
- Planning and execution timeline of hours to weeks
- Smaller projects
- Smaller staff and resources required
- Faster results with small, individual contributions to the bottom line
Kaikaku Large-scale, radical change
- A lean initiative or event with a planning timeline of weeks to months, but execution can range from hours to weeks
- Generally larger projects
- More staff and resources required
- Results are seen slowly, however with larger, coinciding and various contributions to the bottom line
Both kaizen and kaikaku require a skilled, vested group of individuals that believe in the organization they are trying to improve. However, which approach your organization decides to implement will depend on their overall skill set and readiness for the change they are about to take on. The challenges both kaizen and kaikaku present are cannot be overlooked and must be addressed by management, prior to implementation.
The Challenge of Kaikaku
- Increased resources and time: The amount of resources necessary for a successful kaikaku implementation is much larger than a normal kaizen event. Senior management must be engaged in the process due to the significance of the change about to occur. This will require them to set aside other tasks and make major decisions that could ultimately decide the fate of the organization, if gone wrong.
- Takes creativity and capital: Kaikaku is supposed to lead to a revolutionary change that drastically improves the bottom line and/or value stream of the organization. This takes creative minds that can think outside the box, but also the capital to allow them to implement their creative ideas. Typically, a Lean process is supposed to do more with less, but in the case of kaikaku, it sometimes takes a little capital to provide the large scale change you’re looking for. However, the benefits are usually large with kaikaku, so the return on investment is worth it and seen faster than normal.
Swinging for the Fences
The risk/reward factor is significantly higher with kaikaku, over kaizen. If you’re a sports fan, think of baseball and the difference between a home run hitter and one that hits for a high average, with lots of base hits. The home run hitter goes up swinging for the fences every time. The reward is high because if they connect, the result is a minimum of one run for the team. The risk is that they strike out and your team now has an out for the inning. However, the one who hits for average is up there just trying to make contact and get on base. The reward is low because they may just get a single and never get further than first base, but the chances of them getting out is also low.
The baseball analogy might not click for everyone, but the point is; you can use them both to win. Baseball like all team sports, takes a team to win. Therefore, intertwining your singles and home run hitters can lead to tremendous success is done correctly. The same could be said about kaizen and kaikaku.
In order for your organization to have success with kaikaku, you have to appreciate the importance and value kaizen has. If not, your organization’s ability to sustain the “radical” change, may fall flat on its face. When dealt with a problem or situation that requires a revolutionary change (kaikaku) to happen, you may not always get the initial results you were looking for. However through continuous improvement (kaizen), you can continue to push towards the results you were initially looking for.
The Ten Commandments of Kaikaku
By: Hiroyuki Hirano
- Throw out the traditional concept of manufacturing methods
- Think about how the new method will work, not how it won’t work
- Don’t accept excuses; totally deny the status quo
- Don’t seek perfection; a 50% implementation rate is fine as long as it’s done on the spot
- Correct mistakes the moment they are found
- Don’t spend money on kaikaku
- Problems give you a chance to use your brains
- Ask “why” five times
- Tens person’s ideas are better than one person’s knowledge
- Kaikaku knows no limits
Building a culture for your Lean processes to thrive on can be very difficult without the right tools and skills within the population of your facility. Lean is no different than safety or any other process your organization implements, it takes a culture that believes and thrives on the ideas your processes are founded on. Behind every culture though, is the understanding and appreciation for communication. Successful communication is made up of key ingredients, one of those being feedback.
Feedback is Key
Feedback is essential to improving communication. For many, the thought of open dialogue results in a spike in their anxiety levels, but this is more of a result of not having the skills to have an engaging conversation that allows for feedback. When you can understand and implement feedback into your everyday conversations around the workplace, you are able to add insight and more importantly, improve the conversation, allowing for it to be a foundation for future conversations.
Neglecting to give feedback is neglecting yourself of an improvement opportunity, Feedback helps one understand one another and allows them to interpret one’s behavior through effective dialogue. It allows us to continue our learning process by learning how others interpret our words. When we receive feedback, we understand what effect we are having on the conversation, which allows us to correct our behavior or tone if needed. This type of information gathering is what separates a constructive conversation from meaningless words.
It is important to understand that communication is a two-way street which requires a mutual understanding of the message being transmitted. Feedback is the linkage between what the communicator is trying to say and how the recipient is receiving the message. As the communicator receives feedback, they can then evaluate the effectiveness of their message and determine what changes, if any, need to be made.
Effects of Feedback
Turns a meaningless conversation into a meaningful one.
Helps sustain and improve the communication process.
Lets the communicator know if their message is being received properly.
Pushes the conversation flow and topic of what’s being discussed.
Completes the communication process or starts it over for further discussion.
The benefits of a culture built on engaging communication dependent upon feedback is clear, but getting there is a challenge. People need to be comfortable and trust one another, to properly benefit from feedback. To help, here are some key elements to keep in mind when trying to establish a culture that thrives on one’s feedback.
1. Relationships need trust
Whether it’s obvious or not in your workplace, some people have better relationships with one another than others do. Some good, some bad. Those relationships are built on trust and how well they communicate with each other is dependent upon their trust level with each other. Those with higher trust levels are going to be more willing to give feedback with one another during a conversation. Creating an environment where everyone is on the same trust level is difficult, but you can take the steps to help promote it.
Tips to help build trust:
- Organize gatherings- Pizza Fridays, bagel Mondays, brainstorming meeting, these are just a few examples of ways to bring employees together. Once together, employees have the chance to get to know one another better and start the trust building process.
- Let others know it’s ok to say no- Giving feedback is not about being a “yes man.” Saying no is actually a good way to show that you are listening and not just nodding your head.
- Don’t rush to judgement- Sometimes you are not always ready to provide feedback. That’s ok. Bad feedback can be just as bad as no feedback at all. If you are not ready to provide the critical thinking necessary for constructive feedback, then postpone it until you are. This shows others that you want to put the effort in, but just need more time to do so.
2. Make it a positive experience
We’ve all had the boss or supervisor that felt they could get the best out of their staff by publicly criticizing them to make a point. This is about the worst way possible to build a culture that hopes to thrive on communication and feedback. Feedback is meant to help the recipient improve themselves or the situation at hand. Public criticism may provide a short-term impact, but if you want to build a culture that feels comfortable and open to give public feedback, keep it positive while in the open. There is a time and place for criticism, even negativity, but it’s behind closed doors.
3. Make it the norm
Providing feedback should not be a special event. Only providing feedback during special events can make people feel uncomfortable and take some of the sincerity away if it seems planned out. Feedback needs to be an organic part of the culture that everyone is comfortable doing and being around. Once the behavior appears to be the norm, more will be willing to participate and contribute to the feedback process.
Keep it up
Everyone takes feedback a different way. Our previous experiences play a big role in our current roles. This is something we should all be conscious of, when receiving and giving feedback. Don’t be discouraged by one’s emotional state. Continue to provide feedback, but adjust your method to get the best out of your effort, while providing them with the content they need to improve.
It also helps to provide feedback in ‘I-messages.’ Meaning, you say “I think,” rather than “you should.” This takes the perception away that you are being accusatory or judgmental in your feedback, which takes away from its purpose.
One last thing
Your body language is extremely important during the course of a conversation. Body language is also considered feedback and can be just as negative as positive. Keep this in mind when you’re in a conversation and try to stay as neutral as possible with your body language. Let your words and critical thinking ability provide the feedback to be the most effective.
A Time to be Thankful
Thanksgiving Day is full of food we rarely ever consume, watching football of teams we hardly care about, yet seemingly play every fourth Thursday in November, and family members we only see on the holidays. Yet at some point during the piling of calories onto our plates we find time to express what we are thankful for. This is usually a spontaneous answer, half full of emotion, and half full of just wanting to get back to scarfing your face. This Thanksgiving though, take the time to be thankful for something else –your employees.
While we should always be thankful for those who make our organizations run smoothly and effectively, Thanksgiving provides a unique opportunity to thank them personally and with a purpose. They are the backbone of your continuous improvement journey, a little appreciation and recognition can have a significant impact on their contribution and engagement with the path your trying to “carve.”
Here are a few simple ways to thank and recognize your employees this Thanksgiving season:
- Write them a personal thank you note. Thank them for all they have done and that their work has not gone unnoticed. Make each note personal, avoid copy and paste techniques. This takes the personal factor away, reducing the meaning and/or intention. Also, personally deliver the notes rather than just dropping them in a mailbox. This creates an extra opportunity to thank them and shake their hand for a job well done.
- Engage each employee. Ask them about their upcoming holiday plans or how they’ve been lately. This is a great conversation starter if you are sincere and offers an opportunity to thank them in person, for the work they contribute to your organization. Employees can sense when you are not being sincere, so make sure you mean what you say and show that you truly care about them. This can go a long way when trying to get employees behind a new task or change in operations.
- Have a pizza party. Or any kind of party for that matter. I’m not saying go all out, but a few pizzas around the break room are an easy way to show your appreciation and let the team know you are thankful for what they do.
- Send them home early. This may or may not be possible in all situations, but it’s a nice way to show your appreciation and say thanks. This is undoubtedly the busiest time of year for your employees, outside of work. A few extra hours away from the office could make a huge difference in their lives and could help boost their productivity when they return. If you can’t let then all go early, try having some come in a few hours late to mix it up.
- Get involved in the community. Start a toy drive, food drive, blood drive, some kind of drive that shows your employees you care about the community that helped the company grow. This gives employees an opportunity to get involved as well and take a break from the norm around the workplace.
Regardless of what you do, something is better than nothing as long as it is meaningful. Believe it or not, employees do care about things other than a paycheck. They still want to be appreciated and know that they mean something to the organization they leave their families for everyday.
We’ve all had a bad experience at a restaurant. It’s nothing we or the restaurant ever hope for, but it’s the risk we take each time we venture out for a meal. We generally choose a restaurant for one of two reasons, the food or the atmosphere and set our expectations accordingly. For my most recent dining experience I went with the latter and made my way to Buffalo Wild Wings. There were multiple sporting events on that I wanted to watch and they were all on at the same time. Seeing how I only have one television and they have more than I can count, it seemed like the right choice at the time.
A Three Hour Wait!
Apparently, so did everybody else in town. After circling the parking lot for about 15 minutes looking for a parking spot, I was greeted by a hostesses inside to tell me the good news. A three hour wait! Yes that’s correct, our estimated wait time was as long as the game itself! She did say it with a smile though.
After putting my jaw back in place from it dropping to the floor, the hostess asked for my phone number. I gave it to her without hesitation and proceeded to wonder what I was going to do. That’s until about two minutes later when I received a text message saying that I had been added to the Buffalo Wild Wings waitlist.
Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t even have to be there and I could be notified that my table was ready through a text message. In fact, inside the text message was a link to a webpage that showed my place in line and how long I had been waiting.
Lean in a Restaurant?
In working with and writing about the wide word of Lean, I was immediately drawn to this new method of handling large amounts of guests in a restaurant. I started running through the process and thinking about all the ways this simple, yet powerful new tool could be interpreted by a Lean enthusiast.
- Less Waste: No more writing down names on paper and then having to call them out when a table is available. Gone are the plastic alert buzzers that require additional equipment and power to run them. All that’s needed, is what the restaurant and customer already have, a computer and a cell phone.
- Enhanced Customer Experience: With up to the second information at the palm of your hands, you know exactly where you are in the order and how much time you have until your table is ready.
- Keeps Continuous Improvement In Focus: Being able to track your customer wait times electronically with no additional software should provide the restaurant with critical information. This should help improve wait times in an efficient and accurate manner.
- Improved Communication: It’s a two-way system which allows the customer to text the restaurant back or if you would like to call, the phone number is included in the original text.
A Better Way To Dine
Not sure if it was the right thing to do, but my guest and I decided to walk down to another restaurant showing the games and grab an appetizer while we waited for our text message. We continued to hang out at the neighboring restaurant while monitoring our status on my cell phone. As we moved towards the top, we walked back over. Sure enough, after walking back into BWW I received a text message that our table was ready. We ended up staying there for the rest of the game and most of the following, but if it wasn’t for this new service, we more than likely would have not come back at all.
The technology the restaurant used was from Firespotter Labs called NoshList Premium. After doing a little research, it turns out this service is now being used by over 1600 restaurants nationwide. Other chains include Red Robin and Gourmet Burgers.
The full list of features include:
- Unlimited Two-Way Texting
- Table Number Assignment
- Large Party Functionality
- NoshGuest Autofill
- In-App Statistics
- Designated Local Phone Number
- 30-Day Exportable Analytics
- Weekly Email Summaries
We are reminded time and time again (and rightfully so), Lean is about culture. It is a crucial part and in most cases, the backbone of any Lean organization. A culture that believes in continuous improvement and practices what they preach day in and day out, is the key to sustaining Lean. What’s less talked about, is what goes into a culture that allows it to gain the strength needed to sustain an organization’s Lean processes. Enter hansei.
What is Hansei?
The Japanese term “hansei,” can simply be translated into English as “reflection,” but in the Lean community and especially Toyota, it has a much bigger meaning.
Hansei is really much deeper than reflection. It is really being honest about your own weaknesses. If you are talking about only your strengths, you are bragging. If you are recognizing your weaknesses with sincerity, it is a high level of strength.
Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way
One of the keys to Toyota’s success throughout the years and what many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around, is the art of hansei. All to often, we overlook our weaknesses and attempt to cover them up with our strengths, as if they will eventually conquer our flaws in the end. But in reality, this is about as counterintuitive as you could be when promoting a continuous improvement philosophy.
An individual must accept the fact that they have flaws and weaknesses, Otherwise their ability to continuously improve and have a positive impact on the culture that surrounds them, is at a significant disadvantage.
The key elements to hansei:
- Helps the individual recognize a problem.
- Allows individual to accept responsibility of a problem with a high level of emotion.
- Pushes the individual towards a plan of action to improve
Everyone’s Reflection is Different
Hansei can be one of the most powerful concepts in your organization, if it’s accepted. Critical self analysis is always a tough pill to swallow in the American culture. Mike Masaki, president of the Toyota Technical Center from 1995-2000, found this out first hand.
Upon a visit to an American facility, Masaki pointed out some “very bad” parts to the American designers. This criticism was met with an uncomfortable reaction by most, which was unusual to Masaki, who spent a lot of time critiquing different elements of Toyota at the time.
In Japan the reaction is I should have designed this better I made a mistake! The U.S. designer’s expectation is that I did a good job so I should be rewarded. This is a big cultural difference.
Mike Masaki, former president of Toyota Technical Center
No one expects (at least not overnight), a complete culture shift in the American workforce. It’s what makes us unique and allows us to create our own identity. However, when you’re able to least consider the fact that you have weaknesses and are willing to work on what it’s going to take to improve upon them, the possibilities are endless.
The problem is, it is a lot more work to find what you’re bad at, then it is to point out your strengths. It is all in the mindset though. I don’t necessarily feel you should completely take praise and recognition out all together like some suggest, but I do feel that a different mindset is needed to effectively use the hansei concept. Which is, no matter the success one has, there is always room for improvement.
This is not to say that what you did was wrong, but rather an opportunity to do something better. However the only way to present yourself with this valuable opportunity, is through the hansei process. When done immediately upon completion of a project or job, the possibility for value adding improvement is at it’s highest point. Some even have a regular hansei-kai (reflection meeting) to reflect on current events, progress, and even personnel issues.
When you are able to truly grasp the concept and intent of hansei, there really is no downside. If you are honest with yourself and are able to accept criticism as an opportunity, rather than a negative, your ability to lead a culture of continuous improvement will strengthen beyond imagine.
Without hansei it is impossible to have kaizen. In Japanese hansei, when you do something wrong, at first you must feel really, really sad. Then you must create a future plan to solve that problem and you must sincerely believe you will never make this type of mistake again.
Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way
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.
Culture Wins Championships
For 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.
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.
At the core of any Lean philosophy is the pursuit and sustainment of continual improvement. However, this continues to be a struggle for many Lean transformations as they attempt to implement these processes into their culture. Part of the problem, lies in the hands of the leaders that attempt to push new agendas into their organization. Leaders can make or break a Lean culture. With the help of Leader Standard Work (LSW) the make, is far more a reality than the break.
Leader Standard Work requires a whole new mindset in your leader’s routines. It takes the leader from the boss’s chair to the coaches corner, promoting a show, not tell type of attitude. When leaders mimic the behavior they wish to see, it gives everyone else an example that they can use to establish their own actions for best practices.
The beauty of LSW is that it fits perfectly into Lean and especially Kaizen concepts, instilling a sense of ownership, accountability, empowerment and responsibility throughout the entire organization. This mentality is the glue in many organizations that holds the culture together and promotes an attitude that believes continuous improvement is possible at all times.
To standardize work methods is the the sum of all the good ways we have discovered up to present. It therefore becomes the standard. Today’s standardization is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based. If you think of standards as confining, then progress stops.
Leader Standard Work
Leader Standard Work is the repetitive pattern of activities that represent the current least wasteful method of planning and controlling normal business processes. In simplest terms, LSW is a check-list of leadership activities that are performed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Once something becomes repetitive it can become standardized and taught to anyone. A lot of a leader’s standard work will focus on specific activities where the work is being done (Gemba), but it is also important to set aside time in your routine for continual improvement as well.
The key is the repetition. Doing this daily will not only confirm that work is being done correctly, but also ensure that everyone is being held accountable for working up to standard, including leaders. The idea sounds simple enough, but it can be quite the task to implement.
Components of LSW
- Your front line is the start of your standard work tasks. The supervisor starts a LSW cycle by verifying direct reports from the front line.
- Supervisors then can report to their superior or director. The director’s standard work entails the verification of work tasks completed by the supervisor. From there, the director is able to report back to their superior or administrator.
- The administrator reports to their superior and so on.
- This creates an interlocking layer of accountability, laying a foundation for sustainability.
- Define outcome metrics that indicate the department is achieving success.
- Assign the characteristics and attributes to a process that help achieve the desired outcomes for success.
- Define the behaviors that help achieve those outcomes.
- Have controls in place to ensure the desired behaviors are present every day, in every situation.
- Determine how you as a leader will verify these expectations are being met.
Three categories of leadership tasks include:
- Scheduled tasks- puts the appropriate audits in place to verify disciplined adherence to the process
- Unscheduled but predictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets
- Unscheduled and unpredictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets and does not interrupt already scheduled tasks.
Implementing Leader Standard Work requires a culture change within the culture. It truly takes dedication and true leadership skills to be successful at it. However, the end result is in many cases is the key to sustaining other Lean methods that lack the checks and balances that LSW provides.
Once you have laid groundwork and developed the right mindset, the rest will fall into place. Established standardized routines keep goals in focus and more obtainable than before, especially with the use of visual tools to remind you. The use of visual tools to highlight the required minimum standard of work will enhance motivation. When everyone is able to see the standardized tasks, accountability becomes that much more important.
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Your 48 hours away from that dream vacation you’ve waited all year for. Soon the ocean breeze will calm your soul and wisp away any worries of your day-to-day life while your toes bask in the warm sand and Bob Marley tracks play in the background. But wait, remember you still have 48 hours left, which means two full days of work and a ton of stuff to get done! –Enter the Vacation Paradox.
Suddenly a urgency to itemize and strategically plan your remaining tasks before you leave comes to the forefront of your activities. You feel a need to accomplish your tasks in an orderly fashion in order to not leave behind any troubles for others to deal with while your gone.
David Mann, author of Creating a Lean Culture, describes this feeling as the Vacation Paradox phenomenon. That is, the ability to break down your day with a feeling of suddenly having more time in your day to do more, to work on improvement steps and accomplish your normal business activities
For those that embrace this time with a cool head instead of jolting into panic mode is key to not only the Vacation Paradox, but in your overall improvement as well. Mann believes that these “pre-vacation” times allow us to get a lot more done at home and at work than usual because you are using your time more efficiently.
There is a lot more time to get small things done when they are clearly identified and scoped and there is reason to get them done. –The Vacation Paradox
David Mann, Creating a Lean Culture
Capacity For Improvement
The capacity to use this time in such an efficient manner has always been there. The motivation is what was lacking. The vision of the vacation and the desire to “leave your troubles behind,” allows us to tap into this capacity we seldom use. Sustaining this sudden boost in improvement and efficiency is exactly what it takes to be a lean guru.
So how do we tap into this capacity for our day-to-day improvement?
By reinforcing process focus and driving improvement, daily accountability actually creates increased capacity for improvement via the vacation paradox.
David Mann, Creating a Lean Culture
Daily Improvement is Possible
Mann’s Vacation Paradox phenomenon connects the value in time management and the results that come of it. The difference in leaders that have a focus on their time management and accountability and those that don’t makes a major difference in your lean growth.
The ability to build new capacities and act on the ones we’ve untapped are crucial to your lean culture and continuous improvement. The impact leaders and supervisors in a value stream can make in as little as 20-30 minutes a day is huge in the improvement process.
We underestimate the value of small daily improvements and sometimes get caught up putting out major fires instead. Don’t get me wrong putting out the fires is extremely important and necessary to a successful operation, but setting aside a little bit of time every day might help put out the fires before they start.
As this becomes a daily habit, your ability to sustain lean principles and provide continuous improvement to your organization will grow.
How often do you find yourself searching for an item you thought you left one place, only to find it in another? How many times have you gone to pour a bowl of cereal in the wee hours of he morning, only to find an empty cupboard and a dishwasher full of dirty dishes? Ever gone to make a sandwich and realize you just laid your bread onto a dirty counter?
Chances are, these scenarios are all to familiar to your kitchen.
You don’t have to be a Kaizen expert to understand its ideology and the benefits it can have on your daily routines. Kaizen is a way of life for a growing group of individuals. Its principles are quickly spreading out of the manufacturing plants that made it popular and into all facets of our life, including your kitchen.
The Japanese philosophy that originally comes from Japanese culture and Japanese practice of management, focuses on quality that is the aim of daily life. A quality that should allow for gradual and continuous improvement, while in pursuit of perfection.
Or in other words:
Kai = change
Zen = better
If there’s one place in a home that could always use constant improvement, it’s definitely the kitchen. The kitchen has become the focal point of homes. It’s now a gathering point and social area when friends come to visit. So if you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to look at some methods to improve your kitchen through the Kaizen way.
Get the most out of your kitchen
Understanding the Kaizen cycle is the first step towards transforming your scrambled kitchen into a lean, mean, Kaizen machine.
The PCDA of Kaizen:
- PLAN: Determine the objectives your tasks face. Identify the barriers and opportunities that are available. Once you have identified them accordingly, develop actions to overcome the barriers and take advantage of the opportunities.
- DO: Implement the action plans you have established.
- CHECK: Review the progress of the action plans and determine whether or not they were beneficial to improving the process. Look for deviations in the plan that would improve the process. When first implementing, this is a good time to take notes and reflect on your process.
- ACT: Determine where to apply changes that will include improvement of the process or product and implement them into the plan accordingly. Information from CHECK is essential to the ACT step.
Kaizen in the kitchen
Embedding the PCDA into your kitchen routines is learning process that will take a bit of effort on your part. But the end result is worth effort, leading you to a more productive and efficient kitchen.
To begin your Kaizen transformation, take a basic meal that you once thought was a simple, meaningless task and apply the PCDA cycle. Ask yourself these simple, but important questions next time you prepare a meal.
- Are all the items you need for your preparation clean and in an organized, convenient location to your prep area?
- Were all the ingredients labeled and in convenient locations to your prep area? Were they expired or close to expiration date?
- Was there things you could’ve prepared prior to them being needed?
- What will you do with your down time in-between tasks? Anything that can be productive towards your goal within your downtime is extremely important to your Kaizen kitchen (e.g. doing dishes, cleaning messes, prepping for later steps).
- What could you have done differently to improve any of the steps along the way?
Slow and steady wins the race
No matter where or how you apply it, Kaizen is not an overnight transformation. It takes mental and physical changes that require constant analysis and improvement.
To get the best out of yourself and your Kaizen kitchen, remember that it is a method of continuous improvement. A method that can be conquered by taking small steps along the way, while reflecting and adjusting as you go.
Making drastic changes here and there are a quick way to see short term improvements, but for a long term sustainable Kaizen transformation, the key is the little things you do to improve–EVERYDAY.