(I could drop the mic and walk away from the shortest blog ever, but that would be rude.)
We’ll be the first to admit that when Kaizen software is not explained very well, it can certainly sound like nothing more than a fancy To Do list for improvement ideas. When someone asks, “Why don’t we just use Excel,” we can be confident that the concept has not been described very well. Sure, there is an element of task tracking, but Kaizen software is so much more.
The element of Kaizen software that has the most in common with a To Do list is its ability to capture employee suggested opportunities for improvement. The system makes it easy for every employee to document and share their ideas for innovation from wherever they are. This important, yet basic function could arguably be done in any kind of a shared document, but in that case, all you’ve done is capture the improvement idea. The To Do list stops here, Kaizen software is just getting started.
Kaizen software allows employees to attach all sorts of media to an opportunity for improvement. Documents, images, links and even video can be appended so that those reviewing and planning the improvement work have all the information they need to get started.
The most important part of the documentation in Kaizen software, though, is that it lasts forever and is accessible to everyone. When someone makes a process improvement and logs it in the software, other people in the organization can learn from that improvement. They can go on to build upon that new standard, and a record of everything is available to look back on in the future.
With Kaizen software, improvements don't get lost in the shuffle after they've been "completed." The institutional body of knowledge is searchable, and customizable reminders let you know when it's time to review the solution.
When an opportunity is entered, the appropriate people are notified so that it can be reviewed and a decision can be made if and when to implement the improvement. Tasks are assigned and an entire virtual, cross-functional team can be assembled if necessary to take action. As work progresses, alerts and notifications keep everyone on track and moving forward. Kaizen software makes the entire process transparent and keeps everyone in the loop, so that nothing falls through the cracks. This, in turn, increases engagement as the people who initially participated see that their ideas are valued and addressed, and others want to get in on that action.
Impact and Engagement Tracking
There are a few reasons that improvement impact tracking is so important. It justifies the continued investment in improvement, of course. But, almost more importantly, it also reinforces for employees the value of their contributions to the success of the organization. It’s a great feeling to know how much your idea saved in costs or increased productivity. Kaizen software helps quantify the value of each improvement and the total results of improvement overall.
Those tracking functions don't just monitor your impact, though; they also help you to see which areas of the organization are participating, which leaders are coaching well, and where the bottlenecks that prevent progress are. You can see who your star performers are, and who needs a little more nudging in the right direction. This functionality helps you to be a better Kaizen coach.
Along those lines, widespread recognition of employee contribution to improvement is essential for engagement. Unlike a list, the best Kaizen software solutions come with built-in improvement broadcasting and employee recognition features. On a more practical level, giving people a shout out for their work not only increases employee buy in - it also notifies the right people about the improvement so that current best practices can be updated and each improvement can have the maximum impact across the organization.
So while a To Do list and Kaizen software do share the concept that you should write down improvement ideas, the similarity stops there. Companies that are serious about Kaizen should consider serious solutions to support it.
One of our customers recently wrote an awesome blog post about why his organization moved from lists in Excel and bulletin boards to KaiNexus' continuous improvement software. Read that post to hear it in his own words.