Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with Examples

Kaizen is agile thinking that can lead to high productivity in organizations and projects. It is not easy to explain exactly what Kaizen is, because people think it is some kind of project or product management.

Kaizen, however, is more philosophy and a way of thinking than something concrete and practical. Reference: “Kaizen management strategy for optimizing organizations and projects“, https://www.businesspad.org/kaizen-management-strategy-for-optimizing-organizations-and-projects/

However, I present practical ideas for 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement by Professor Iwao Kobayashi.

Table of Contents

1. Clean and arrange. Everywhere and all the time.

Introducing and maintaining order and good visibility of all jobs gives a friendly vision. Removing everything unnecessary, and organizing everything to look clean and beautiful pleases the eye not only the employee but also the client/business partner. There is a popular saying: “On the clothes they welcome, they send the mind.” The welcoming and beautiful vision inspires respect for the client and creates coziness for the employee. Messy desks; glued notes, labels; broken furniture and interior; worn surfaces; Dust and dirt. All teams participate in this process. Probable problems – some employees oppose the process or like the mess and dirt. Read more: Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization, https://www.vbprojects.org/modern-kaizen-principles-and-keys-to-workforce-optimization/

2. Management style with engagement and participation. Work with all people to engage their minds and hearts as well as in their work, as well as in their hands.

Knowing absolutely all employees of the goals and strategy of the company is a must. When people are clear, detailed, and specifically informed about what should be achieved when they are aware of the goals of the company, they will have a good idea of their specific activities and participation. Every employee will know what to contribute and can even give ideas and suggestions to deal with problems, eliminate unnecessary processes, and optimize the work environment and activities. Creativity in every person must be encouraged because the energy of the artist inspires not only him but the whole team. Everyone is involved in this process – from the leaders who play a leading role to the last employee. Original article: 20 Agile Kaizen keys to workplace improvement, https://www.libraryofmu.org/20-agile-kaizen-keys-to-workplace-improvement/
Probable problems:

Managers do not want to disclose the goals and tasks of the company (do not want to be disclosed to any employee);
Managers must have a clear formulation and proper formulation of goals and tasks;
Managers do not know how to inspire their teams;
Employees may not understand goals and tasks;
employees do not feel motivated and engaged in their work;
to have difficult interpersonal relationships – between managers,
between managers and teams and within the teams themselves.

3. Working in a team. Focusing on teamwork to include everyone in enthusiastic improvements.

Organizing people in smaller groups (teams) of 10 people will allocate tasks so that they are better understood and performed more properly and faster. This improves communication between people. The formation of smaller groups of channels and communication of managers with them. If a problem occurs, it can be resolved and resolved faster. Each group must know very well its specific task and purpose, and the deadlines for its implementation. The idea of everyone on the team is very important. Each of them must be tested in practical application and this can lead to significant improvements in processes and results. All employees are involved in the process. Original publication: “Kaizen methodology for workplace improvement“, https://bpedia.org/kaizen-methodology-to-workplace-improvement/

Probable problems:

Managers do not want to form smaller teams (teams);
to include in a team of people who do not like each other;
one of the team to try to lead, displacing the already defined leader;
The designated leaders of each team do not have real leadership skills and qualities;
Leaders cannot support people, accept their ideas and separate the benefits of chaff;
employees do not feel motivated;
To have difficult interpersonal relationships – between managers, between managers and team leaders, and in the teams themselves.

4. Reduced inventory and time for implementation. Dealing with overproduction and reducing costs and terms.

This key is related to the previous ones – shortening the staff where it is superfluous. Automation implementation, shortening production time from the smallest items of the product, and the introduction of know-how. Rational use of energy and materials. With less material and work to achieve higher results. If we use a long time to produce the smallest structural unit, it needs to be shortened. Going out of the workpiece, we affect the whole. Everyone is involved.
Difficulties – managers oppose proposals or any of them. As well as a team or teams that do not want to accept innovations. Keep reading: “The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples“, https://agileprogramming.org/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-explained-examples/

5. Reducing the time to change matrices and machines for more flexible operation.

In processes that do not include machines and tools, we can focus on reducing technological time for our operations.
The software team, the technical team, and the managers participate.
Difficulties – Managers do not want to implement new software solutions, and offices do not have a suitable place to reorganize.

6. Continuous improvement of the workplace. Creating improvement as a lifestyle, constant improvement of work, and a better workplace.

The key is connected to previous keys. Creating a technological workplace, the implementation of improvements in product quality and production time, as well as continuous monitoring and maintenance of these processes. Creating comfort and coziness in the workplace. Participation – all departments.
Problems – lack of feedback from teams to managers. As well as managers do not consider this an important part of the work.

7. Zero monitoring. Building systems that avoid the need to monitor people constantly. Instead, create a team that works to maintain and improve your technology.

The key also has a connection with previous keys. When the goals in front of each team are set, understandable, and specifically when they are explained correctly and every team member knows exactly what is expected and what exactly should do in sync with the common purpose or task, then people can self-organize and anyone yes He follows his tasks.
People need to be motivated to do this, as well as to feel calm and free to make suggestions and ideas in addition to development and improvements. The need for constant control of the team is eliminated.
Managers at all levels and all teams participate.
Problem – Managers do not understand the benefits of this key, and some of them fail to motivate people to self-government; members of the team take the initiative to present themselves as a leader; Team members do not show self -organization (typical of Scrum teams). More on the topic: “Every Scrum Master must know the Kaizen principles“, https://wikipedia-lab.org/every-scrum-master-must-know-the-kaizen-principles/

8. Creating interconnected cells where the flow and withdrawal are the main order of the day.

For example – a client request for a particular type of service is obtained through the site. Instead of wanting to stand and wait for an employee to check to see if his team has received a request, the system must channel/distribute the type of request to the team. To create feedback to the system and the client that the request has been accepted and processed. To set a time limit to be fulfilled. After communication with the client, reflect the result in the system.
If there is a change while working with the client, this must also be reflected for any change to be analyzed. Any problem derived from the analysis must refer to a separate system. This system must be taken over for processing by a team that will offer changes to improve the service. For any change imposed by the client’s desire, communicate with him until his approval. Enter customer feedback for a while to track how to behave and work the service. During this time, a defect or problem may be detected that can be completely avoided in the future (preliminary information).
Managers participate; in the software team; in connection with the client; Employees’ Product Analysis and Quality Team.
Problem – to miss one of the stages and to disturb the integrity of the process. Author’s website: “Kaizen and the 20 keys to workplace improvement (of Iwao Kobayashi): Real Examples“, https://ossalumni.org/kaizen-and-the-20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-of-iwao-kobayashi-real-examples/

9. Maintenance. Maintaining machines by people who work with them, not by external specialists. This allows for constant adjustment and minimum stay.

This allows for constant adjustment and minimal interruption of the workflow. The idea is that we must maintain our systems and products, not be done by an external company. We know our products and technology best.
Maintaining the processes in order should be done by an internal team. He knows best all the subtlety of the process and his logic.
Every external company will waste time getting to know the technology. It will waste not only in the study of the processes to reach the problem in them but also in waiting. If there is no solution, another contractor is required. Internal teams are always available.
The software team and employees participate.
Problem – Managers do not agree with this. See also: “20 Keys to Workplace Improvement (Manufacturing & Production) explained with examples and strategies“, https://phron.org/20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-manufacturing-production-explained-with-examples-and-strategies/

10. Disciplined, rhythmic work. Synchronized systems where all parts work together.

All teams should perform in sync, rhythm, and smooth sequence at every stage of product or service production. Systems must correspond seamlessly and be in constant communication. There should be no acceleration or delay somewhere on the “route”. This leads to either the overload of one of the teams or a “hole” in the work. The principle can be illustrated as a rhythm running and a single team step. Self-organized and disciplined teams. All departments participate.
Problem – A problem may arise somewhere that, if not communicated and resolved on time, can prevent work. Or there is poor communication between teams and people. More on the topic: “Kaizen strategy with 20 keys to Workplace Improvement by Iwao Kobayashi“, https://mpmu.org/kaizen-strategy-20-keys/

11. Defects. Defect management, including defective parts and connections.

Monitoring, controlling, and managing defects. We are looking for the reasons and we try to avoid them.
It is necessary to create a system for describing, analyzing, and controlling defects. A defect should mean not only a defect or problem in the product or service (its elements and parts) but also in the interpersonal relationships, which much of the practice shows as the cause of the failure or lower profit.
Participants – all departments.
Problem – not understanding the concept of defect, not being able to implement a system for control, analysis, and coping with defects. Interpersonal problematic relationships must be overcome.

12. Partnerships between suppliers. Working with suppliers makes them part of the ever-improving chain instead of fighting them.

Globally, supply is a chain. The companies are units of it. If we are the service providers for the end user, then other companies behind us deliver supplies to us. To keep the customer as the end user, all chain providers must be associates, partners, and followers, because overall the end customer is a client of all. See also: “Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples“, https://pm.mba/posts/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-examples/
Our suppliers need to be selected well – after a rating study, stable contractual relationships, and covering the necessary criteria. For good commercial practices, it is important to have transparent financial reporting and subsequent control/verification. The contracts must have the most accurate and clear clauses, deadlines, and responsibilities, even with irregularities, without serious litigation and loss of money. In the event of changes from the end client, you can easily and quickly communicate with it and change the conditions through annexes to the contract.
Participants – the teams involved in deliveries; The Legal Department and the Guide.
Problems – we have not studied enough our suppliers; not have quality contracts; do not exercise good control; not to communicate with them properly; to admit conflicts of interest or unregulated relationships between members of our teams and suppliers.

13. Waste. Constant identification and elimination of things that either do not add value or even destroy it.

These can be processes, ways of work, and even roles or positions. Everything that does not help us must be removed from our work.
After careful analysis, everything that interferes with the production process of the product or service, starting from the smallest components, should be removed. The idea is to remove everything that does not make a profit but generates costs.
Example – the implementation of energy-saving appliances and machines; reducing the office space by properly reducing workplaces to more productive and less spatially intensive, including remote work; Reducing unnecessary positions and people.
Participation – management team and experts in the quality of the workflow. Original reference: What is Kaizen methodology, https://medfd.org/what-is-kaizen-methodology/
Problems – the inability to correctly identify all unnecessary processes, conditions, products, and people that generate costs.

14. Support and training for employees. Employee training to work at a higher level so that they can increase the value they add to the work.

Monitoring all new topics and training in the field of staff training, providing continuous training and training of employees; Encouraging all who create and give ideas; Good motivation and creation of a relaxed and cozy working environment.
Participants – HR Department and Guide.
Problems – misunderstanding of the employee qualification process; Do not allocate funds for this.

15. Work in cross-function. Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change their departments to gain experience in other areas.

With this key, employees gain experience and knowledge on the tasks of their colleagues from other teams. In this way, employees are introduced to the integrity of the product, have the opportunity to “generate” ideas, and enrich the processes with their proposals. The key helps to more easily and quickly identify vulnerabilities and improve efficiency by acquiring additional knowledge.
Participants – all teams
Problems – resistance from management and teams; The teams do not want to get acquainted with someone else’s work. Related article: “20 Kaizen Keys: A Strategy for Integrating Kaizen in a Software Company”, https://brightonbot.com/20-kaizen-keys-a-strategy-for-integrating-kaizen-in-a-software-company/

16. Planning. Operations are planned to create a stream of high-quality and affordable products.

Planning is an important part of the organization of the process. Without inclusion in the plan of the small stages of the process, no control can be exercised and deadlines are observed. When it goes according to plan, the necessary changes to the processes to improve quality and efficiency can be made quickly. Putting a product or termination of the service can be planned. This contributes to good customer service and creates confidence in us as contractors.
Participation – planning and forecasting team, software team, management team.
Problems – omissions and preparation of inaccurate plans with missing stages and wrong terms.

17. Efficiency. Balancing financial problems with other areas that indirectly affect costs.

Completing some stages of the process can lead to greater cost savings than other stages. Thus, profit from them can give greater savings at the end of the process. To understand which part can gain more profit, it is necessary to analyze step by step. Example-online services are part of the better and better customer service, which they prefer instead visiting the office. After analysis, it is possible to shorten a certain number of offices from the network, which will save money on rent, maintenance and service, salaries, and insurance of employees. At the same time, to improve, develop and maintain a sufficient level of online service.
Business analysis teams, software, and management participate.
Problems – the inability to find such units to apply this approach.

18. Technology. The use and training of more sophisticated technologies and the adaptation of the teams to them.

It is always necessary to monitor the entry of new business technologies. The preliminary training of the team and the application of the know-how will be a great advantage for the company in market conditions. It will always be flexible and will offer modern, fast, cheaper, and at the same time better quality services and products.
Software teams, are teams in which innovation can be used
Problems – the company does not monitor new technological solutions; The manual does not see the opportunity for better profits and quality of the product.

19. Conservation. Save resources to avoid waste for both the company and the society and the environment.

Ecology is a topic that lies in the production and lifestyle of people everywhere now. Many companies are looking for unanswered technology or maximum use of resources. The generation of waste is related to many resources for their destruction or transportation by the company (fees, fines, permits, transportation, landfill).
The implementation of processes and technologies for unanswered or minimal waste at the end of the process helps not only in the financial part of the company but also in the environment. If the company holds such green or eco certificates in the eye of the client or user, it earns respect and greater confidence.
Even in non -production areas, such as the use of recycled paper can be entered when it is not necessary to print official documents; separate waste bins; Automatic dispensers for preparations; photocells for lighting, etc.))
Participants – engineering teams, management, all teams.
Problem – most times environmental behavior and attitudes do not find support and understanding.

20. Technology and competitive engineering. Understanding and using methods such as parallel engineering and Taguchi methods

The aim is to improve the quality of cost reduction. Products and services should be designed in such a way as to avoid disturbances from influences that will be difficult and expensive to eliminate afterward. As well as to minimize costs and improve quality at times. The idea is to think as predictably as possible.
The marketing, software, quality control teams, and customer links participate, as well as managers.
The probable problem we can face is the reluctance of employees to accept innovation or managers to apply them.