The Kaizen Group

At its core, kaizen is a group effort. Only when the entire organization embraces the ideals of kaizen will
The Kaizen Group you see its benefits. The dedication to kaizen must start at the highest level of management and must infect middle management and the general workforce like a virus. Kaizen will forever change the manager-worker relationship. Traditionally, the manager’s role was to plan, implement, and supervise the workers. But by using the small group model in kaizen, the responsibility to plan, do, and control falls to the worker. The manager’s job is now to motivate and supervise the workers.

Small groups are formed to carry out various specific tasks in the workplace such as quality control, suggestions groups, ways to minimize movement, safety, or any other necessary task. Together they utilize the PDCA cycle to make small but continuous improvements to their areas.

The advantages to this method are enormous. They include:

  • Better morale
  • Increased sense of teamwork
  • Better communication between employees and management
  • New skill development
  • Workers feel valued and enjoy coming to work
  • Removes the drudgery of the job

This small group model is a win-win for both management and workers. Workers begin to enjoy coming to work and management sees the level of quality in their products rise.

An important (and critical) tenet of kaizen is respect for the people. Because kaizen relies on frontline workers to suggest areas for improvements, it is important they feel respected and are comfortable in making process improvement suggestions.

Workers should be encouraged to not only look for cost-saving improvements, but to look for improvements that can make a process run smoother or even improve the work environment. Those operating on the frontline should also be encouraged to try out their own ideas. If they idea is small enough, employees should feel confident in making changes as need. It is important for workplaces that practice kaizen to trust people and not always rely on management to make decisions.

So, how can managers successfully implement kaizen and support their workers? It is important the manager is involved in maintaining and improving standards, setting goals and targets for improvement, and show workers when improvements have made a positive impact.

Kaizen is most successful when employees are fully invested in the philosophy and managers understand their role of support and encouragement. Small improvements may seem small and ineffective at first, but over time these incremental changes amount to a great reduction in waste and a noticeable increase in efficiency and productivity.

Additional Resources