scrabble letters spelling refine - describes Kaizen and how to continuously improve your business

New Year, New…Kaizen?

With one of our 3 Core Values being to “continually improve,” we’re not big on New Year’s resolutions at Infinity. If there is something that needs to be better, we want to figure out how to make that happen right away. And with the ever-changing landscape of technology, we can’t afford to wait. So it should come as no surprise that we have adopted the Kaizen method. And you can, too.

What is Kaizen?

In the simplest terms, Kaizen is an approach to business, life, etc. that looks for ways to do things better. It takes awareness, openness, and willingness, but it doesn’t have to take major time or financial investment. The idea is that continuous improvements—small as they may be—lead to massive positive results.

“Repeated studies have shown that somewhere between 50% and 90% of all work is wasted. This is true regardless of the country, industry or product.”

– Jon Miller, CEO, Kaizen Institute Consulting Group

For example, suppose you start each day disappointed in yourself because you never have time to make a “real” breakfast…or you are frustrated that you can’t find your keys (again)…or you always end up late to your first meeting because you had to turn around to get something (phone charger, glasses, files). Kaizen is the practice of recognizing that there could be a better way…and then implementing it.

For these examples, you could include some breakfast food options in your weekly meal prep so you have oatmeal bites or omelets that only need quick re-heating in the morning. You could put your keys or charger in the same place by the door or in your work bag when you walk around the house locking up for the night.

As these simple tweaks become automatic behaviors, your mornings will run more smoothly and will improve your mood toward whatever tasks you do next. Then you can look for ways to make something else faster or more efficient. Before you realize it, all the small process improvements add up to consequential gains in productivity and happiness.

Where did the idea of Kaizen come from?

Dating back to World War II, the Kaizen philosophy was born out of the desire of Japanese businessmen to make their companies more competitive and their willingness to embrace new ideas to do it. They saw western manufacturing methods increasing productivity, so rather than sticking with the way they had always done things, they embraced change (similar to the concept of digital transformation we talked about recently).

The word itself comes from “kai” meaning change and “zen” meaning good, which when combined express an idea of continually changing for the better.

Why are we talking about an idea that’s more than 70 years old?

Our Infinity co-founders have been familiar with the concept of Kaizen for about a decade. The idea of it—of continuous improvement—has always been present for them, guiding, but not formalized. That all changed when they documented our 3 Core Values approximately five years ago. From then on, “Continually Improve” became a common refrain and practice. And after a recent exercise that resulted in new, more clearly descriptive job titles (more on that here), they decided to formally introduce Kaizen to the rest of us.

Kaizen board - how to cut down on business wasteWe now have a Kaizen board, forms, and a process for evaluating ideas. The board itself is located where everyone will see it—near both the kitchen and the bathrooms. The forms are simple and clear, asking primarily for a description of what can be improved, what the suggestion is, and what the expected improvement will result in.

We’ve already got a couple of ideas on the board now, and we thought you could benefit from a little Kaizen in your life, too. If you’re interested in more specific applications of Kaizen, visit MindTools for a table of some common types of waste in business and their suggested approach to implementation.

The beauty of Kaizen is that it can be used to great advantage by absolutely anyone. So here’s to not just a new year, but a better year.

To speak with us more about Kaizen or to learn how we can help continuously improve your business, contact us today!