The Kaizen model of continuous improvement originated in Japan and has been used as a management concept for incremental, or gradual/continual, change or improvement. It has been a way of life for Japanese people for centuries and can be applied to key elements of business like quality, effort, employee involvement, change initiatives and communication.
The emphasis is on gradual improvement, built on a foundation of strategic initiatives that create specific and measurable benefits to the business. It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and is best applied in incremental change situations over the long-term.
How do you get your team to buy in to the Kaizen concept?
Firstly, gain agreement that small changes would be advantageous to the working climate. It will have greater backing if all recognise the need for growth.
Ascertain how you could perform as a team if everyone was willing to commit to improvement. Don’t expect or demand overnight radical change…gain their agreement that small, specific improvements will be easier and more effectively implemented than larger, more global ones.
Decide how the team can measure the effectiveness of any new initiative. This will help gain ownership of any changes that can be made.
Commit to the changes yourself, so you set the example of what’s expected. Team members are more likely to commit if they see you championing the concept.
Create short-term wins that will help the team see successes quickly and frequently. Feedback of these wins will create a motivational environment.
Communicate the results and share the benefits. You’ll cement the commitment and drive the momentum forward to continue.
It’s always going to be easier for someone to aim for a 5% improvement over 3 months, than a 20% improvement over a year, so the Kaizen concept of continuous and frequent improvements will provide you with an easier acceptance level from your team. And that can only be good for morale and confidence!
Originally published: 4 August, 2010