The 10 Points of Kaizen Spirit

Lucero Rafa is a Lean-Kaizen Consultant & Trainer… since 2001… He help leaders to transform organizations through #people development (#leadership #leanleadership ), #process improvement and continuous #problemsolving #kaizen #lean

I remember the first time that I saw one of those little cards (sorry I don’t have them in English yet). I was working in Faurecia, after some years working for Ford Spain… a real statement of intents.

Where do the 10 points of Kaizen spirit come from?

It is nothing that I have invented at all, but in every one of my trainings, in every lecture, in every visit to a potential customer, nearly to every person I meet, I give them, as a gift, one of the kaizen spirit little cards.

Kaizen is a Japanese word, made of Kai, which means change and Zen, which means good: Kaizen could be translated as a good change, to change for better, or as I prefer… Continuous Improvement

What is Kaizen?

But What is Kaizen? Is it a tool or methodology of the many we have in “the Lean world”?

In some companies, they use the word Kaizen in a sense of radical improvement (Blitz Kaizen, Week of Kaizen…) a teamwork gets together to improve radically a concrete process or a specific work area. But, in my opinion, it would be better to use another word for this, Kaikaku.

Kaizen is nearly a “Life Philosophy”; it means to think about the best way to improve and progress. It is a total implication of:

  • In EVERY area of the company

I recommend you a quick read of my article “Getting Involved in 29 seconds”.

Let´s remember the 10 Points of Kaizen spirit:

  1. Abandon fixed ideas. Reject the current state of things.
  2. Instead of explaining what cannot be done, reflect about how it can be done.
  3. No excuses needed
  4. Go for the simple solution, not the perfect one
  5. Correct mistakes right away
  6. Use your wit, not your wallet
  7. Problems are opportunities
  8. Repeat “why?” five times
  9. There is no end to improvement
  10. Seek ideas from many people

Kaizen 1: Abandon fixed ideas. Reject the current state of things.

I am sure that you have heard the expression “We have always done it that way” or other similar sentences to this.

Why can´t we make things in a different way?  We shouldn´t be satisfied doing the things always in the same way. It is, probably, one of the most difficult obstacles to break, because we all reject changes, we are comfortable with what we know, the comfort zone. But we have to look for new possibilities, it is the only way to IMPROVE.

I recommend the reading of “The Parable of the Monkeys”

Let us not be like them!

Kaizen 2. Instead of explaining what cannot be done, reflect about how it can be done.

It is easier to say:

“This is impossible”

“I tried last year and it didn´t work” or

“This is not working”…

… Than think in how we could do it. However, Is this the way?

A sentence of Thomas Alva Edison inventor, among other things, of the light bulb, comes to my mind,

«I did not fail, I just found 999 ways how not to make a light bulb.»

The way to progress, to improve, in summary, to learn is to try, to think, to experience.

Kaizen 3. No excuses needed

Kaizen 4. Go for the simple solution, not the perfect one

I like discussing those two points together

We have lots of people working 8 hours a day, 220 days per year… That is more than 1600 hours doing their jobs…

They should be filling us with improvement ideas, because Who better than the person who is doing a concrete job, best to know how to improve it?

I know companies where dozens or even hundred of ideas of improvement, per employee, are implemented every year.

But in most companies, we “kill” our own creativity and the creativity of the people who work with us.

From the awful sentence, “I do not pay you for thinking” used by managers (I hope in the past) to the most contemporary “They do not pay me for thinking” (that some employees already use)

But, of course they pay you for thinking! Or, at least, it should be in that way!

But what normally happens is, that a team member suggests an idea of improvement, “easy and simple”, maybe not radical or not a 60% of improvement, but instead of implementing it, we Engineers (we are normally complicated) try to improve it and it ends in a draw, forgotten.

By not implementing the “easy and simple” idea of this employee, we obtain two negative things:

  • To not implement the idea and not improve a little bit NOW
  • The most important, we discourage the employee who proposed the idea. He will start working only for “the salary at the end of the month” or waiting until it´s time to go home. And, in some occasions, we will be responsible for that.

Kaizen 5. Correct Mistakes right away.

In the day to day of companies, there are problems of all sizes, big, medium or small problems.

Attitude of leaders is the key factor to solve them.

Leaders cannot wait at a desk and wait that someone else tells them “what happened”

They Have to “Go and See” the problems where they happen. Know them, understand them, and solve them. They have to go to the Gemba (to the floor, to the place where things happen), to know the facts, to investigate them…

Here I remind you the mythical sentence by W.E. Deming, the “Father of PDCA”:

In God we trust (or not). All other bring Data (in the place it happens)” (the words in brackets are mine).

Kaizen 6. Find Ideas in the Difficulty

One of the main missions of managers or leaders, must be to challenge their employees to obtain results that can seem difficult to reach currently. But with caution.

Is it necessary to work too hard for a small improvement?

In big challenges is where big teams appear and where unexpected results can arise.

Kaizen 7. Look for the root cause, respect the 5 Why´s and then look for the solution.

In my opinion, this is one of the key points of “Lean” in Continuous Improvement.

We all have to be “Problem Solvers”, each one at their own level.

If we achieve to have problem solvers in our team, problems will change to something positive, not like now.

We normally jump from problems to solutions, without even knowing which is the root cause. If we do not know the cause, How can we solve it correctly and forever? A successful existing methodology, called “The 5 Why´s”. It consist in asking 5 times Why? To the cause of the problem, but of course, we need to know when and where to start using it.

Kaizen 8. Consider 10 ideas of 10 different people, instead of the brilliant idea of one of them.

I challenge you to do the following experiment:

Put, in a room, the best Engineer in your company, and in another room, a TEAM with knowledge, workers, managers, and people from different areas of the company.

Give them the same problem.

99.999 times out of 100.000, the TEAM will have better results. POSITIVE!

Continuous Improvement, Kaizen, Lean do not depend on having the “Best internal Consultant in the world”

Teams are the Key of Success! Let people think!

Kaizen 9. Try and then validate

This point is extremely important.

In companies, normally, we are very good at making action plans to solve problems.

But not everything is to make them. We have to try the actions, check that they work as we think… learn!

Then, probably, after some tries, and changes of initial plans, we could validate the final solution. Remember Edison… he needed thousands of tries before the right solution!

Kaizen 10. Improve is infinite

This one is , possibly, the most important point of “Kaizen Philosophy”

Always, and I repeat you can ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS improve.

I agree that when you start it could be easier, or improvements could be bigger, but there is always a possibility of improvement.

We have to question everything and not to be content with the STATUS QUO. (So we can come back to the point 1)

What do you think of The 10 points of Kaizen spirit?

Too good to be true?

Or maybe the change is not is your hands?

If you realise, what The 10 points of Kaizen spirit propose, is a cultural change, where managers and directors are the ones that have to change the most

Do you practice The 10 points of Kaizen spirit in your Organisation?

Do you think companies, nowadays, are based on The 10 points of Kaizen spirit?

Have a little think…