Kaizen is a Japanese word which means continuous improvement. Under this model it is believed that ongoing small changes will help the organisation to continuously progress or as some commentators have said “evolve”. As they are small changes they can apply to all areas of the business. Under Kaizen theory there is no limit to continuous improvement, so the improvement process will never end.
Anyone and Everyone
Under Kaizen theory all employees at all levels can come up with a change. It is believed that changes suggested by the people involved in the processes (that the changes are about) are going to be more effective. This is because such people have first hand experience of the process, they are aware of problems and their impact; they may even be involved in previous changes that were not effective. Kaizen theory values employees and invests in them.
In a Kaizen environment every employee has two jobs; their company job and their job to look for areas which could benefit from improvement and provide suggestions on how to improve. The challenge for the management team is to convince employees that they have two jobs and one is just as important as the other.
Teamwork and Cells
For a Kaizen business teamwork is paramount. Employees will work together to improve individual and team performance. Each team is known as a cell and will be responsible for a particular area of production. Each cell is believed to be experts in their area of production and will be encouraged to hold discussions (quality circles) about how production can be improved. A Kaizen organisation will gave each idea serious consideration and decide on which ones to implement. Such consideration and implementation is important, if employees' ideas are not implemented they will lose faith in the Kaizen ethos and Kaizen strategy will fail.
Targets and “Level – Up”
To encourage employees to suggest ideas, Kaizen includes setting employee and cell targets. Achievement against targets will be on display so that everyone in the company can see how well the cell is doing. The posters showing a cells performance against their targets is known a “level-up” chart