Kaizen is a way of thinking that embraces the ideas of seeking perfection and engaging in continuous improvement. Organizations prosper when everyone is involved in positive change. Most managers would love to have a team constantly looking for ways to standardize, improve, and control processes. However, the Kaizen mindset isn't a given. Some team members may have worked in organizations where employee suggestions were ignored, or worse, discouraged. Rigid top-down management is still, unfortunately, common. That's why it is essential to have a good plan for introducing the idea of Kaizen and improvement to your employees.
Our customers have a lot of experience in this area, and they've shared some of their most important insights. So here are our suggestions for effective and enjoyable Kaizen training.
Kaizen Training Triggers
Kaizen training isn't a one-time event. It needs to be ongoing and iterative to take hold. Some triggers let you know it's time for Kaizen training.
Training is an essential first step if you are starting to embrace Kaizen in your organization. Initial Kaizen training should aim to get everyone excited about the possibilities unleashed by continuous improvement.
You're New to the Team
If you are new to the team, it's a good idea to do Kaizen training even if your team members have been through it before. Why? They need to hear your thoughts on improvement and how you will work as a team to live Kaizen directly from you.
You've got new team members
Don't be lured into thinking that once you've done Kaizen training, you don't have to worry about it anymore. Every time a new person joins the team, it is essential to ensure that Kaien training is part of the onboarding process. If HR provides Kaizen training to new employees, that's great, but as a manager, make sure they hear it from you as well.
You do not see results
If Kaizen has been launched for some time, but you aren't getting the level of engagement or activity you'd like, additional Kaizen training will likely help. Dig into the data to see where the breakdown is happening. For example, if you don't see the number of improvement opportunities you expect, it may be that additional training on your Kaizen software tools is needed. If projects are started but not completed, reviewing your structured improvement cycle may be a good idea.
You have the opportunity to spread Kaizen
Is there another department or team that has not yet embraced continuous improvement? If so, volunteering to share your expertise is a great way to help the entire organization thrive.
Role-Based Kaizen Training
It's easy enough (and accurate) to say that everyone should receive Kaizen training, but different roles require different content. For example, consider a Kaizen training track for:
Executives need to understand their unique role in developing a Kaizen culture. The training should create space for them to articulate concerns and brainstorm responses to any expected obstacles. The executive team should also be introduced to the leadership behaviors that drive engagements, as well as how the results of Kaizen can be measured and reported.
Managers and Coaches
For managers and coaches, context is critical. They need to get specific information about what Kaizen will look like within their teams and what they can do when momentum seems to slow to a crawl. They will also need details about the technology and tools you will use to implement, spread, and sustain improvement. Training managers to handle resistance to continuous improvement is also a good idea. They should understand that change is hard for people and that excuses and procrastination are common. They should be skilled at overcoming objections and highlighting Kaizen's benefits for employees.
The focus for front-line employees should be on embracing change and becoming empowered to improve their own processes. The training should convey that Kaizen allows everyone to do their best work. It also helps to introduce the concept of "failing forward," or being willing to take calculated risks to experiment with solutions to persistent problems.
The HR role might not spring to mind when thinking about Kaizen, but it is critical. HR team members must learn to spot potential employees who will fit into a culture of change and improvement. They will also likely be involved in organizing Kaizen training, so they need to understand it well.
Kaizen Training Curriculum
The training you provide should be unique to your organization, highlighting the tools your team will use and the practices you expect. At a minimum, it should include:
The origin and principles of Kaizen
Team members should learn that Kaizen is not a management fad or something that your organization invented. We like Kaizen training to include some examples of organizations like Toyota and GE that have transformed by embracing the approach. The principles of Kaizen, continuous improvement, and respect for people should be front and center.
What Kaizen looks like in your organization
Any time a new management approach is introduced, people want to know what it means for them. During training, it is helpful if the leadership team explains why they chose to implement Kaizen and how they see it impacting the organization. The more specific you can be about how each employee will be involved and accountable, the better.
Without a standard, there is no way to measure improvement and engage in good change. When introducing standard work, remember that many hear the term and assume it means they must perform every process by the book and do only precisely as they are told. Kaizen training should address and expel the notion that standard work stifles innovation. Instead, they should learn the proper way to suggest reviewing and improving the standard.
When organizations move to Kaizen, they generally also introduce some tools to make it happen. Kaizen training is when you will discuss the specific tools that your teams will be using, they may include:
- 5S workplace organization
- The 5 Whys problem-solving technique
- Value stream mapping
- Huddle meetings
- PDSA Improvement Cycle
- Gemba Walks
Kaizen training is an excellent opportunity to introduce team members to Kaizen events if your organization plans to use them. During a Kaizen event, participants are free of other work, and they focus for three to five days on a specified problem or opportunity. Sometimes called "rapid improvement events," Kaizen events are a great way to help team members engage in improvement and practice using the techniques and tools they've learned.
\You can absolutely practice Kaizen without improvement software to support it. Still, organizations that want to get the most out of the approach often provide employees with technology that takes the friction out of improvement. If you've gone that route, be sure to dedicate part of your Kaizen training time to the technology. Software training should include:
- How to input an opportunity for improvement
- How to receive and manage alerts and notifications
- How to setup or utilize a role-relevant dashboard
- How to track and manage current improvement projects
- How to search past improvement projects
- How improvement work will be measured and tracked
- Who to contact for help or questions
- How to use mobile apps
- How to maintain system security
Hopefully, this post has you thinking about how to create the perfect training plan for your team. With a thoughtful approach and an open-minded team, there's no limit to Kaizen's impact in reaching your organization's most important goals.