“When applied to the workplace kaizen means continuing improvement involving everyone – managers and workers alike.”
Masaaki Imai, author, Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success
Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “change for better.” Today the word has taken on an additional meaning in the business context, referring to continuous improvement, or the practice of continually getting better.
There are several key tenets to the Kaizen methodology:
- Know your customer
- Eliminate waste
- Go to where things happen
- Empower people
- Be transparent
Together, these concepts present an approach to business process management that aims to continuously improve, striving for the best outcomes in ever better iterations.
The Kaizen philosophy is that everything can be improved.
Where some organizations are content to let their processes run so long as there are no significant breakdowns, those that follow a Kaizen approach examine every step, task and activity to find ways to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and reduce costs. The status quo is never accepted as ‘as good as it gets’ and so processes are incrementally improved over time.
This means change happens gradually but steadily rather than in radical leaps, making the process easier for employees and less disruptive for customers, and more agile in an ever-changing business environment.
Resourcing for Kaizen with Nintex Promapp®
Such an active continuous improvement philosophy can’t be sustained without structures and systems to support it. Key amongst them is an effective process management platform. Nintex Promapp® is the tool of choice for hundreds of organizations that want to embed the Kaizen approach of continuous improvement into their business process management.
Less is more
The first concepts of Kaizen are ‘know your customer’ and ‘eliminate waste.’
Being aware of who it is you’re serving is vital for creating value, and providing avenues for collecting and acting on customer suggestions can contribute significantly. Nintex Promapp®’s Improvement add-on allows the recording and tracking of customer suggestions from recording the idea through to implementation, with clear accountability and a full audit record to ensure the customer expectations are understood and, where possible, met.
The other way to increase customer satisfaction and improve margins is by eliminating waste, whether lost time, process breakdowns or excess costs.
The Lean tagging function in Nintex Promapp® enables teams to identify inefficiencies within processes, prioritize the reduction of non-value-add activities and waste, and track, manage, and report on opportunities for improvement. Where losses could be recouped or breakdowns avoided, these tags pinpoint the potential and allow process experts to focus their efforts on effective continuous improvement.
Power from the people
The next three central ideals of Kaizen flow from an investment in employees.
They build a picture of the importance of organizational ‘buy in’ – a complete commitment to continuous improvement at every level. While not everyone is going to be a process expert, they don’t need to be. However, if they are not invested in the drive toward improvement, there will be significant inertia when it comes to making changes.
Nintex Promapp® is the process tool that teams love to use, and provides a platform to make these ideals part of the DNA of the business.
‘Go where things happen’ is often expressed as ‘go to gemba,’ where gemba literally means ‘the real place.’
It’s the Kaizen encouragement for management to be aware of what actually happens at the front lines of the organization, to ‘follow the action’ because it is in those places of activity that value is created and management needs a good picture of what that looks like if they want to improve upon it.
Nintex Promapp® leverages the expertise of the people who know your processes best to ensure that the process maps captured are a real record of what happens. The easy to learn and simple to use platform lets subject matter experts concentrate on writing clear process information, and assembles powerful and easy to follow process maps from it.
Because the content is being created by the people who use the process on a day-to-day basis rather than technical experts from outside their department, management can be assured they are seeing accurate information from right where the action happens.
The principle of empowering people challenges managers to organize teams in a way that will support the pursuit of continuous improvement. That means both providing the right tools and giving the right people the responsibilities they need to succeed.
Nintex Promapp® establishes user-stakeholders, assigning process experts and owners to administer the processes they work with on a regular basis. They oversee editing and tracking the processes, providing a touchpoint for the improvement conversation. That conversation flows naturally from the simple feedback tool, which allows users to easily provide suggestions and feedback on processes.
The relevant stakeholders are notified in real-time, and the feedback – along with their responses – is recorded within the process itself, to ensure there is a clear record of the ongoing evolution of the procedure.
The third ‘employee investment’ concept in Kaizen is transparency.
Clear data and communication are essential to track and promote ongoing improvement efforts. Nintex Promapp® tracks the changes made to processes in a clear audit log, and the personalized dashboards ensure process owners and users are kept informed of every change. Processes can be compared to earlier versions to see the changes that have occurred, and time and cost tracking produce valuable reports on the ongoing improvement of the process efficiency and effectiveness.
Kaizen at Toyota
Gaining an edge through continuous improvement or Kaizen is at the heart of Toyota’s manufacturing approach. It only was natural then that they would leverage the same way of thinking to manage a significant business transition.
Grant Barling, Corporate Manager at Toyota Australia, explains that using Kaizen and Lean thinking was invaluable when the company prepared to move their sales and marketing operations from Sydney to Melbourne.
They needed to minimize business disruption, engage staff, and act quickly to capture the knowledge of hundreds of staff members.
Here’s what they did:
- Took a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) approach, to capture process knowledge quickly and effectively and enable a smoother transition, with the bulk of their time spent in the planning stage.
- Focused on following and recording the processes themselves rather than on scrutinizing individual team members. This took the pressure off individuals and allowed for a more honest record of how things were really
- Empowered teams to look for ways the processes could be improved – rather than just transfer “as is” processes to the new operation in Melbourne, they used the move as an opportunity to improve them in the Kaizen fashion.
- Maintained momentum and ensured management oversight and staff participation with executive support and regular reports back to the Board
Making Kaizen Continuous Improvement happen
The focus on collaboration and effective feedback in Nintex Promapp® ensures companies can make the most of their most powerful resource – the teams that do the work.
With clear communication, personalized dashboards and effective lean tagging, Nintex Promapp® can help teams take ideas scribbled on Post-it notes or whiteboards in workshops and incorporate them into easy-to-follow business processes which can be used by teams to bridge the gap between lean initiative goals and business as usual.
Nintex Promapp® was built to enable Kaizen as a methodology and to create a culture of continuous improvement that everyone can participate in.
Contact us to find out how Nintex Promapp® can engage your teams and empower your Kaizen initiatives.