Kaizen in plain English

Kaizen or continuous improvement is a buzz word these days. But what is it? Is it something complex? No, not at all. I am trying to explain it in the simplest possible way today.

If you do not improve what you are doing, your competition will pass you sooner or later. So it is a given that any organization should improve themselves. But how an organization should do this?

Continuous improvement suggests you systematically improve on things you are currently doing. This will, over a period of time, allow you to take your organization forward. It is like a wheel which turns little by little, but continuously, which takes the organization forward.

Lean organization plans the way forward, act based on the plan, doing improvements to the system. Then they check the output against the expected results. Then they act according to the outcome. If the outcome is not aligned with the expected outcome, corrective actions will be taken. In any case the cycle will continue driving the organization forward in the correct direction.

Probably the main difference between traditional programs of innovation and Kaizen activity is the ability to check and correct the course on the go. This is possible because unlike other programs, Kaizen happens in small steps. You can measure the results after every step and you will be able to correct the changes after every step. This will make sure not only you are going forward, but you are going in the correct direction, which is very important.

Any tool we associate with lean can be a Kaizen tool too, when applied with the Kaizen mindset. This is true for a strategic level tool like Hoshin Charts or a simple cause and effect diagram.

Kaizen tells organizations to improve at a steady phase, but continuously, which is a guaranteed formula for winning.