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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement

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Maggie Millard

As the Director of Marketing, Maggie educates the continuous improvement community, KaiNexus customers, executives, managers, and staff in just about every industry you can think of about improvement principles and KaiNexus' continuous improvement software. Her desire to improve the American healthcare system combined with a love of spreading knowledge to the far reaches of the internet inspires her work with KaiNexus every day. Maggie graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2010 with a BA in History. She spends her free time hanging out with her sweet, sticky, stinky new baby and two displaced dogs in the mountains of Virginia.
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Recent Posts

The Art of Asking Good Coaching Questions

Posted by Maggie Millard

Dec 4, 2019 7:09:00 AM

Today we are bringing you another recap of a presentation from the 2019 KaiNexicon event. We were delighted to draw together leaders and change agents from a wide variety of organizations to pool our collective wisdom and get better at getting better.

We were thrilled that Jamie V. Parker agreed to participate. Jamie is on a mission to make the world of work more human. She's a trainer, speaker, and mentor with over 17 hears of multi-unit operations management in manufacturing, retail, and service environments.

We received so much great feedback about her presentation that we wanted to do a recap for anyone who missed it. Of course, you can watch the video here, if you prefer.

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Topics: Leadership

Why is Kaizen Such a Popular Name for Sushi Restaurants?

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 29, 2019 7:15:00 AM

The Sacramento area is home to a small chain of sushi restaurants called Mikuni. The downtown location is a favorite of politicians and lobbyists. When they opened up the newest location in Roseville, they gave it a new name, "Mikuni Kaizen." They explained, "The Japanese word "kaizen," which translates to "continuous improvement," truly reflects the concept behind this Mikuni location. While the menu features a host of exquisite sushi rolls made popular at the restaurant's other locations, it is also highlighted by an extensive selection of small plates and tapas-style dishes- each more exciting and compelling than the next."

Of course, seeing this on a recent visit piqued my interest. It isn't common to find continuous improvement related terms out in the wild, so it stuck with me. It turns out that the idea of applying the principles of kaizen to sushi (or vice versa) is not as novel as I thought. A quick Google search revealed that there are lots of sushi restaurants with kaizen in the name.

In addition to Roseville's Mikuni Kaizen, you could enjoy:

  • Kaizen Campbell in Campbell, CA
  • Kaizen Sushi Bar & Grill in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Kaizen Sushi in San Francisco, CA
  • Kaizen Tavern in Alexandria, VA

And those are just the ones that made the first page of Google.

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Topics: Kaizen

Did Microsoft Hack Employee Productivity with a 4 Day Work Week?

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 25, 2019 8:00:00 AM

By now, you’ve probably heard of Microsoft’s experiment with a four day work week in Japan. The trial program, which saw offices closed every Friday during August, was part of Microsoft’s “Work-Life Choice Challenge,” a summer project set up to look at work-life balance and help find ways to boost creativity and productivity.

The results were pretty amazing. Productivity increased by 39.9% versus the same period in 2018. Not only was productivity improved, but also the number of printed pages in the office dropped by 59%, and electricity consumption was down 23%.

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Topics: Leadership, Employee Engagement

Celebrating Mary Greeley Medical Center

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 22, 2019 2:18:09 PM

I'm taking a break from our regular stream of improvement methodology and software blog posts to celebrate the success of one of our oldest and best customers - Mary Greeley Medical Center!

A 220-bed acute care facility in Ames, Iowa, Mary Greeley is one of only six healthcare organizations to receive the 2019 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Their CEO, Brian Dieter, is quoted in this press release saying:

“Everyone at Mary Greeley played an important part in this achievement,” said Dieter. “Every employee contributes to the experience patients and families have when they walk through our doors, whether they are at the bedside caring for patients or supporting those who do.”

This year, Mary Greeley also earned Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence. They are one of just twelve hospitals in the nation to have achieved both of these recognitions.

The press release goes on to describe factors contributing to their Baldrige success:

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4 Big Improvement Ideas to Set the Stage for Success in 2020

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 7, 2019 9:13:47 AM

It seems like every year goes by faster than the last. I keep making plans to work on my summer tan, and suddenly, it's November. The holidays will be upon us before we know it and then – boom! We're in a brand-new decade.

Before things get too crazy, this is an excellent time to think about how you can set your team up for outstanding results in 2020. It won't surprise you to hear us say it, but making just some small adjustments in your leadership approach can have an enormous impact. Here are four improvement ideas to consider in the new year.

Take Strategic Planning to the Next Level

Most organizations go through some sort of strategic planning exercise for each new year, but few can execute the strategy successfully. That's because the strategy is planned but not fully deployed. It doesn't become part of daily conversations or activities. Perhaps the revenue targets are well understood and receive frequent attention, but what about everything else.

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Topics: Daily Improvement, Improvement Culture, Improvement Process

Should Lean Tools Be Used for Every Improvement?

Posted by Maggie Millard

Oct 14, 2019 10:11:31 AM


When I first saw this tweet from our resident Lean and Six Sigma expert and author, Mark Graban, I thought that he made an excellent point. Sometimes we get caught up in all of the sophisticated improvement tools at our disposal like value stream maps, Kaizen events, A3s, heck, even continuous improvement software that we fail to make or adequately recognize small improvements that don’t require tools.

But when I reread it, I was struck by the line, “This small improvement didn’t require a belt, root cause analysis, or a project champion.” Nope. Recognizing that the speakers were not in the ideal location and finding a way to solve that problem didn’t require any fancy techniques at all.

But what did it require? There are some prerequisites that are necessary to make even a simple improvement like this one possible.

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Topics: Lean, Improvement Culture

10 Leadership Behaviors that Promote Operational Excellence

Posted by Maggie Millard

Sep 25, 2019 10:42:50 AM

Operational excellence happens when an organization consistently and reliably outperforms the competition through constant improvement and a dedication to customer value. When two companies have the same strategy, the operationally excellent company will have higher revenues, lower cost, and less risk. This type of execution is only possible with a combination of outstanding leadership and a culture that supports problem-solving and transparency.

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Topics: Leadership, Operational Excellence

Kaizen and the Art of Kintsugi: Redefining Perfection

Posted by Maggie Millard

Aug 21, 2019 1:05:48 PM

As regular readers of this blog know, many of the ideas and practices that guide the modern continuous improvement movement have their origins in Japanese philosophy and culture. Today’s leaders talk about kaizen (improvement), hoshin kanri (direction setting), and kanban (visual management) regularly. Recently, while scrolling through my Instagram feed of all things, I was struck by another Japanese concept that deserves some thought in the business context as well – the art of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi which translates to “golden journey” and is also known as Kintsukurio (golden repair) is the art of repairing broken pottery by joining the broken pieces with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. No attempt is made to hide the repair; in fact, the technique highlights it. The repair becomes part of the history of the object. The object is not beautiful despite the fact that it was broken, it is more beautiful because it was broken.

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Topics: Daily Improvement, Kaizen

The Motivation-Hygiene Theory of Employee Engagement

Posted by Maggie Millard

Aug 15, 2019 8:54:35 AM

It is relatively common for people to use the terms “employee engagement,” and “employee satisfaction,” interchangeably, although we have never been comfortable with that framing, especially when it comes to software. Tools like employee NPS and employee pulse surveys do an excellent job of measuring employee satisfaction, but they don’t have features likely to increase employee engagement. Understanding the difference can help organizations that want to attract, retain, and develop talent find the tools that can help them do so.

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Topics: Employee Engagement

French Fries and the Culture Imperative

Posted by Maggie Millard

Aug 8, 2019 8:32:00 AM

“Culture isn’t just on aspect of the game – it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” Lou Gerstner Jr. – IBM.

These days it is a little bit embarrassing to admit that I eat fast food from time to time, but there you have it. I like French fries, and I cannot lie. And as everyone knows, McDonald's French fries are objectively the best. One of the founding principles of McDonald’s was that the food would taste the same no matter which location you visit. I’d say they have generally achieved this aim even though most locations are franchises run by hundreds of different owners across the country.

But while the food is relatively consistent, the quality of customer service is not. The employees from one McDonalds to another are paid about the same. The employees come from the same labor market. The functional job requirements are the same. So why do some locations operate efficiently with friendly and engaged employees, while others have workers who are indifferent?

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Topics: Improvement Culture, Operational Excellence

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