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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement


A Pilot and a Focus on Engagement: Continuous Improvement at Mohawk

Posted by Maggie Millard

Apr 13, 2017 7:51:00 AM

One of the most interesting things about working with new clients at KaiNexus is that we get to hear stories about how organizations have approached continuous improvement (CI) and ask them about their challenges, successes, and plans for the future. Recently, our Vice-President of Improvement & Innovation Services and founder of LeanBlog.org, Mark Graban had the opportunity to speak with Ben Whitaker, Director, Business Process Management and IT for Mohawk Fine Papers about the beginnings of his organization’s CI journey.

Mohawk is North America's largest privately owned manufacturer of fine papers, envelopes, and specialty substrates for commercial and digital printing. The company has a long history providing paper products, and products like paper, for their customers to print on. Whitaker explained that some of the equipment the company has is over a hundred years old, and according to Mohawk’s website, the company was founded in 1931.

Listen to the interview and subscribe to the podcast:

As Whitaker explained, the motivation to consider improvement methodologies came about in 2016 because of a recent expansion into the envelope business in addition to the company’s paper operations. This expansion was originally a response to industry changes that urged the company to get control over envelopes that were made from its paper.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Customer Testimonials

What Every Company Can Learn From "Shirtless Saturdays"

Posted by Paul Gardner

Aug 2, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Paul Gardner, the author of this post, is one of the investors in KaiNexus and has played a huge role in our success. This story is his account of his time in the army from 1968-1970, at which time he was stationed at Ft. Hood, TX, working in the finance branch during the Vietnam War. Prior to the events in this story, Paul had recently graduated from Texas A&M as a Distinguished Military Graduate with a degree in Accounting.


When I was in the Army from 1968 to 1970, the Army was experimenting with a new pay system in 13 locations around the world. The new system was complicated, with lots of room for human error - I think the average error rate at all locations was 5 to 6% at the time. I was put in charge of rolling out the new system at Ft. Hood, and let me tell you, as a perfectionist, that error rate was completely unacceptable. I knew there had to be a better way.

At the time, I was a First Lieutenant, meaning that I was in charge of over 300 soldiers. Implementing this new pay structure was no small operation. I don’t know if you’re familiar with how the military works, but, traditionally, interactions are governed by rank, and the lower ranks are expected to unquestioningly follow the commands of their superiors.

I knew that this wasn’t going to work; sure, technically I was leading this initiative, and outranked the 300 other guys who were implementing it, but they had more experience actually doing the work, and we needed their insight to improve the process.

So, I instituted “Shirtless Saturdays.”

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Topics: Employee Engagement

When Work Is Stressful and Dangerous, Employee Health Suffers

Posted by Matt Banna

Jul 25, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Between deadlines, working overtime, and pressures from superiors, work can be a high-stress environment. A little bit of stress can be a good thing and help create good habits. However, a lot of stress can have negative effects on a person’s life. This stress can affect a person’s sleep, eating habits, \weight, and relationships.

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Topics: Employee Engagement

What Smart People Have to Say About Employee Engagement

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 9, 2016 9:20:45 AM

Employee engagement is not the only thing that matters in business, but it matters a lot. Engaged employees contribute more ideas, care more about reducing waste, and provide better customer service. They also stay with their organizations longer and work more effectively in teams. To get you inspired about engaging your employees, I’ve pulled together a few quotes from some of my favorite thought leaders. Enjoy!

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Topics: Employee Engagement

Use Cross-Functional Teams to Offset Organizational Tribalism

Posted by Maggie Millard

Feb 29, 2016 11:20:23 AM

The tendency to form groups, and then to favor in-group members, has the earmarks of instinct. It is normal for wolves, primates, ants, bees and any social animal to create tribes. They, and we, do it for protection, for comfort and fellowship, and as a way to create social meaning in a chaotic world. Only humans are capable of going beyond tribes, thinking in wider groups. This ability to break out of our clans and work together is central to the rise of modern civilization.

People form tribes within companies as well. We tend to form the strongest relationships with those with whom we work most closely. The “tribes” can be delineated by department, job level, or simply by proximity. This is natural, but allowing organizational tribalism to go unchecked limits the company’s ability to innovate and improve. The creation of cross-functional teams is one way to counter our natural tendency to stick with who, and what, we know. Here’s why they are worth the effort.

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Topics: Employee Engagement

How To Increase Buy-In For Improvement [Webinar]

Posted by Maggie Millard

Feb 17, 2016 1:18:36 PM

If you're struggling to get buy-in for improvement in your organization, yesterday's webinar from KaiNexus' Mark Graban and Greg Jacobson might be just what you need. 

In this month's webinar, Mark and Greg dive deep into what buy-in is, why it's hard to get, and what you need to do differently in order to attain it. 

I'll give a synopsis of the webinar here, but for the full effect, you should definitely watch it here (also available on the KaiNexus Podcast, for those of you who are crunched for time). 

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Improvement Culture

The Science Behind Why It's So Hard to Change Minds to Spread Improvement

Posted by Mark Jaben

Jan 15, 2016 6:40:00 AM

Frustrated that you can't expand the improvement culture beyond an initial small group?

Having trouble convincing senior leadership to commit to improvement, or maybe the organization has committed theoretically but  is having trouble changing behaviors and habits?

Struggling to "pull" rather than "push" people into participating in improvement?

We all know that KaiNexus works to spread improvement. Of course, that can only happen if people want to be part of that improvement. 

(Learn about the "pull" approach to improvement one KaiNexus customer has taken here).

Just as we are taught in problem solving to seek out the root cause,  maybe all these frustrations really mean we haven’t found the root cause of why it's so hard to engage people in improvement.

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Topics: Leadership, Employee Engagement, Spread Continuous Improvement

Happiness Is Not The Goal Of Employee Engagement Activities

Posted by Maggie Millard

Dec 15, 2015 9:32:42 AM

I was just reading an article that claimed to be a “comprehensive list of employee engagement activities.” One of the suggestions was to have a “pajama” day. Now trust me, I’m all for working in my pajamas and I’ve got nothing against having a little bit of fun at the office, but this suggestion told me that clearly the author has confused happiness and engagement. Seeing your co-workers in their footies might bring a smile to your face, but I’m afraid it will do little for true engagement.

Listen to this post, read by Maggie Millard (and subscribe to our podcast):

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Topics: Employee Engagement

Catchball: An Essential Practice for Flat Organizations

Posted by Jeff Roussel

Nov 24, 2015 7:30:00 AM

A flat organizational structure with few or no levels of middle management can be extremely conducive to innovation and improvement. Well-trained, engaged workers can be more creative and collaborative when they are more directly involved in the decision making process and not separated from leadership by layers of management. However, without good planning and accountability practices, ambiguity about who is responsible for what can become problematic and allow improvement tasks to fall through the cracks. Catchball can help.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Collaboration

The Biggest Problems with Reactive Employee Engagement Software

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 2, 2015 1:33:19 PM

If the overwhelmingly popular response to our post about 21 employee engagement activities that work is any indication, business leaders really care about getting their employees more emotionally invested in their organizations. This is underscored by the increasing number of employee engagement software solutions on the market. Engagement is crucial and businesses are willing to invest in programs and tools to support it. We’ve seen two distinct approaches to engagement related technology and thought it would be worth the time to explore them.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Software

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