After WWII, the Americans brought in experts to rebuild the Japaneseindustry. The small-step workimprovement approach was developed in the USA to produce warequipment. The small-step work improvement approach encouragesorganizations to introduce small improvements that can be implementedon the same day, given the lack of time and resources for large andinnovative changes during wartime.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “change for the better” in everyday Japanese. The meaning of Kaizen has changed to include a strategy, concept, or measures for implementing continuous improvement. Kaizen was further defined by the Japanese when it was implemented in manufacturing.
It is part philosophy and aims to create a culture where all employees,from the managers to the workers in the manufacturing plants, are actively engaged in proposing and implementing improvements to their company.
The ToyotaProduction System (TPS) is one of the most successful Kaizen implementations. Continuous improvement is one of the core principles that TPS believes in and practices. Kaizen is a company’s continuous improvement program. It aims to continuously improve its business operations, while promoting innovation and evolution. TPS’s objective is to create a flexible process that produces the desired results quickly. This process must eliminate inconsistency and overburden. The TPS was the inspiration for lean manufacturing or the lean production method.
Continuous improvement, also known as continuous improvement process (CIP), is a method of continuously improving over time. However, it does not exclude breakthrough improvements all at once. CIP is now integrated in many management systems, such as quality management and project management.
Because Kaizen is a continuously ongoing activity, there are a few tools and techniques that can be used to implement it. One technique is the plan-do-check–act (PDCA), management cycle method. It is a four-step iterative process, also known as Deming cycle. This method supports continuous improvement of products and processes. W. Edwards Deming was an American engineer and management consultant who worked alongside the leaders of the Japanese industrial after WWII.
The following phases are required for Kaizen activities:
Plan – The members of the team create the objectives and processes that will lead to the desired results.
Do – The team implements the plan, applies new processes, tests them, and gathers data for the next phase.
Check – data collected is checked and evaluated to ensure that they are in line with expectations. The testing process is also evaluated, and compared to the original test that was created during the planning phase. The data are monitored for trends if the PDCA cycle has been implemented multiple times.
Act/Adjust – The team identifies inefficiencies or problems encountered, and other opportunities for improvement, during the Do and Test phases. The root cause analysis is done and the process is adjusted to fix the issues. The process is now better documented and can be deployed. The team can now plan for new objectives and processes in the next cycle.
Kaizenin is your project management workflow
Teams using Agile and other iterative methods may find Kaizenas a more natural process to adopt than other iterative processes. Some softwaredevelopment teams have combined the Deming cycle and the Scrumapproach to ensure continual improvement. Others use Kaizen to improve their work flow and prioritize work in a transparent and flexible environment.
Kaizen is not just about Agile. Kaizen is both a philosophy and a plan of action.