In the business realm, there’s a lot of talk around productivity. Things like the Pomodoro Technique and The Eisenhower Matrix promise to help us get more done. But what if how we’re approaching the process is all wrong?
Leadership and business focus a lot on productivity. But it’s the quality of the work being done that matters, not the quantity. If we sacrifice quality
for the sake of getting things done, the same old problems emerge.
American auto executives had one big problem.
Their manufacturing plants were keeping up on production numbers, but the vehicles were being assembled wrong. Parts were misaligned or secured incorrectly,
bolts ended up in the wrong place or alignment was off, causing a bottleneck at the end of the production line.
The Toyota manufacturing plants based in Japan were churning out vehicles at an incredible rate with near-perfect accuracy. But how? The idea first caught
wind as something called the “Toyota Production System.” This set of values included a central tenet and guiding philosophy at Toyota. It is the Japanese
The word means “good change” or “continuous improvement” and represents a commitment to driving toward incremental efficiency and improvement.
Here’s how it worked in the manufacturing plant. More philosophy than system, Kaizen meant that any Toyota assembly worker, at any time, could halt the
production line to correct an error or make a suggestion to upper management. In manufacturing, stopping the production line for any reason was not
standard operating procedure. But introducing this level of empowerment to assembly line workers gave Toyota the results it wanted: guaranteed quality.
Sometimes it’s the small changes that can make a world of difference for our lives.
It is easy to go along with the status quo and think that we’re doing the best we can. But stepping back from the process helps us clarify where we’re
stuck. Toyota needed well-built vehicles to remain the market leader. So instead of following industry norms i.e. (only letting management stop the
production line) they made drastic changes. Management left quality control up to the production line and rewarded those who took a vested effort in
their work. It made a world of difference and American manufacturing plants adopted the process with significant success.
Kaizen isn’t just something applied to manufacturing processes either. It’s an idea you can take in your own life and business. Here are three simple tips
to applying Kaizen to any workflow or process you’re wanting to improve.
Sometimes it’s hard to see what kind of change will get us from A to B. It takes a lot of energy to introduce new processes to your workplace. Kaizen plays
the long game, relying on small consistent shifts that eventually move mountains. Expect resistance at first and continually take recommendations on
what could be better in your workplace. Remember, kaizen is a learning process and not a report card on how good a leader you are!
To your excellence in achieving continuous improvement,