When Kaizen boards come up, most people think of a space on a wall where people can contribute ideas and (theoretically) watch them move from inception to completion. The layout of the board is unique to each organization, but typically, ideas are represented on cards that move through some sort of PDSA cycle. One common way to organize the boards are in columns like "To Do," "Doing," and "Done." This approach to organizing improvement has been used for decades.
The fact that the board is a physical board, on paper and in a single location, poses a lot of challenges for a widespread improvement culture.
Despite many limitations in who can see the boards, how improvements are tracked, and the lasting impact of each improvement, Kaizen boards endure because the underlying principles of structuring and visualizing improvement are sound. The boards give people a place to gather, a central location for submitting ideas, and a unified way to watch the ideas progress through the improvement cycle.
As with many other areas of business, the cloud offers the opportunity to break through those limitations and make your Kaizen board exponentially more useful, while enhancing the face-to-face communication and visualization that makes Kaizen boards so valuable. Here’s how:
Of course, one of the most obvious limitations of physical boards is that they are essentially useful only to small teams that all work in the same location. People in other buildings - or even different parts of the same building - are left out of the improvement process. Moving to a digital Kaizen board in the cloud removes this barrier and allows people to participate from wherever they work. The board can be displayed on any wall, connecting both local teams as well as diverse groups. Teams can easily invite and support the type of collaboration that leads to innovative thinking.
People do love engaging with Kaizen boards, but the opportunity to do so is limited if you have to be standing in front of it to see what is going on. Your employee’s brains don’t turn off when they leave the office. Inspiration can strike at any time. A cloud based board makes it easy for people to contribute ideas whenever and wherever they have them. What’s more, the digital environment allows for alerts and notifications to pull people back to the board in a way that doesn’t happen with paper.This ensures that each improvement is followed up with on time, and keeps your improvement cycle rolling.
Capture the Past, Present and Future
Traditional paper Kaizen boards do a great job of visualizing the current state of improvement, but what about the past and the future? Once an improvement is completed and removed from the board, is knowing its history and impact no longer of value?
Of course not. Organizations learn from past improvement projects and understanding the impact of each opportunity for improvement is crucial to sustained executive and employee enthusiasm. A digital board becomes a repository of knowledge for all improvement activities, plans, and results by keeping an easily searchable database of improvement.
Executives need a quick and easy way to get the big picture of improvement work throughout the entire organization. Walking from Kaizen board to Kaizen board isn’t exactly the best use of their time. With a cloud-based board, leaders can easily see what is going on at a high level and drill down and get involved when there are roadblocks or challenges. They can quickly recognize those who are contributing the most and best ideas and identify areas of the organization that are over or under performing their peers.
In short, cloud-based Kaizen boards are much better suited than physical ones to the way people work today. If you aren’t getting the results you’d like to see from your board, or if you simply want to achieve better improvement results, it may be time for an upgrade.