What Is The Kaizen Method? - It Teaches Us How To Improve Continuously

Last updated by Katie M.

I keep asking myself how I can improve as a person. Firstly for myself, but also for others. However, there’s one area in which I feel less comfortable progressing: work. How can you continuously improve in your career? Some time ago I discovered the “Kaizen” mindset, a Japanese method that allows you to achieve great things through small everyday changes. It originated in Japanese companies and can help us achieve our goals. Let’s see how to apply it in our professional lives!

What Is The Kaizen Method? - It Teaches Us How To Improve Continuously
Contents: 

What are the principles of Kaizen?

“Kaizen” is a Japanese word combining two ideas

  • 🕰️ Kai - change
  • 🌿 Zen - the best

It’s a concept born in Japan in the 1950s to increase productivity after the Second World War. Toyota developed this method thanks to Taaichi Ohno as part of the management that is part of a continuous improvement approach. We look for new ways of doing better, we eliminate everything that isn’t necessary to become more productive 💪! However, it shouldn’t be done abruptly and quickly.

Slowly but surely

You need to implement small regular improvements progressively so as not to get put off. This is the heart of the method that interests us! It’s a way of making gentle progress without any sudden big changes. You have to focus every day on eliminating the problems you encounter in order to optimize the way you work.

Going too fast, as in all fields, is often discouraging 🙍‍♀️. Indeed, it’s frequently the problem with New Year’s resolutions. 80% of people who make them abandon them after just a month and a half! This proves that you need to initiate change gradually in order to succeed. To do this, you have to break everything down into small steps to achieve your goal 😎.

How to apply the Kaizen method?

Masaaki Imai is the author of several books explaining how to apply this system that can help us improve so much. One of the first things to remember is that you must question yourself all the time in your job. Secondly, you mustn’t aim for perfection because this will exhaust you as well as repeating what you already know how to do. For this, it’s necessary to understand the causes of the difficulties you encounter in order to solve them sustainably 🤔.

Once these three steps have been completed, you can begin the change by prioritizing your tasks. You will favor easy and fast progress! Above all, you must accomplish all this in cohesion with your colleagues, whether you’re a manager or an employee.

👏 No matter how much you fear hierarchy, you have the right to express yourself and suggest ideas to help everyone make progress!

The different Kaizen techniques

In order to apply the Kaizen method at work, there are different techniques. Oh yes, it’s a good job they exist because otherwise we wouldn’t know where to start!

The PDCA cycle

This is a way of establishing a plan in 4 steps to see if our new idea or goal is working for us:

  • P for “plan”: we plan our tasks according to the problems we’ve previously identified;
  • D for “develop the plan” (or “do”): we do our tasks and apply what we have to do;
  • C for “check”: we check that everything is going well and that it doesn’t affect our other tasks;
  • A for “adjust”: if we see that changes are needed, we make them!

What are the five phases of 5S?

The 5 Ss come from the Japanese: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke. They aim to improve our workspace and consequently our well-being. Here’s what they mean:

  • Seiri: clearing, lightening the workspace;
  • Seiton: tidying, optimizing;
  • Seiso: cleaning the workspace;
  • Seiketsu: ordering, preventing the appearance of dirt and disorder;
  • Shitsuke: being rigourous, encouraging self-discipline.

The 5 why's

They allow us to find the cause of a problem we’ve encountered in order to solve it in the long term. To do this, we must ask ourselves why 5 times. The answer to the first “why” leads to the second, and so on:

➜ For example, you’ve fallen behind on a project:

  • Why? Because someone didn’t stick to the schedule.
  • Why? Because they didn’t have all the information.
  • Why? Because it wasn’t given in time.
  • Why? Because the project was launched too late.
  • Why? Because the person responsible for providing the information was absent and wasn’t replaced.

🙅‍♀️ It’s not about finding a culprit, but understanding what went wrong. In this case, it’s a problem of replacement and schedule management. It can also help us to feel less guilty if we see that we’re not able to achieve our goals, and that’s always good to avoid stress at work. Whatever technique we use, we do our best to improve continually 😌!

Editor’s note: Get help to make things easier

As you can see, the Kaizen method is ideal for improving a little each day without any pressure. Yet, it’s not always easy to start this analysis of yourself and your work on your own. We advise you to get help from a coach for this work. You’ll be able to see the progress over the sessions.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy… It’s here and now!
#BornToBeMe

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