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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement


6 Tips for Crowdsourcing Innovation Ideas

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 23, 2019 7:11:00 AM

When we ask people about innovation, they usually leap to radical breakthroughs like self-driving cars, alternative energy sources, or space colonies. While these things are innovative, the term innovation simply means a change to an established method or idea. Storing your forks closer to the dishwasher is innovation. In companies, incremental changes like optimizing a process, or solving a long-standing problem can be as necessary for success as introducing a new product or selling to a new market.

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Topics: Daily Improvement, Innovation Software, Employee Engagement

When Being Right is the Wrong Strategy for Change

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 16, 2019 8:32:00 AM

Frequent readers of this blog are probably familiar with Mark Graban. Mark has been an enormous contributor to the ideological foundation of the KaiNexus continuous improvement software.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Mark is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of “Lean Healthcare” and the author of LeanBlog.org and author of the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award-winning book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement.

His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, is a management book about using simple, yet practical statistical methods that help leaders at all levels overreact less to their metrics, which frees up time for real, focused, sustainable improvement.

Mark joined us for a recent KaiNexus user group in Austin to share with the audience his thoughts on why being right isn’t always the best strategy for change. This post is a recap of the presentation, but we promise its worth your time to watch the whole thing.

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Topics: Leadership, Employee Engagement, Improvement Culture

How To Measure the ROI of Continuous Improvement Efforts

Posted by Mark Graban

Nov 16, 2018 3:01:27 PM

You may or may not know that we host a regular webinar series, with topics ranging from employee engagement and the ROI of continuous improvement to A3 Thinking and improvement software demos.

You can see what's coming up next here.

My favorite part of the webinars is that they give us a chance to listen to the audience; to see what questions people are asking, what topics resonate with them, and what their struggles are.

For example, one of the attendees in our webinar produced in partnership with Gemba Academy called "Congratulations, You Have Lots of Employee Ideas. Now What?" asked this question: 

“We have successfully implemented a Quick and Easy Kaizen program where all our staff identify a problem, improve the problem, and submit the improvement for tracking. The problem I run into is in the submitting the problem and tracking the savings.  Is it common for employees to say how much time they save for each of their ideas?  And do organization often tie a dollar amount to the time savings? Are there pitfalls I should be aware of? (Example: Sally makes $12.00 an hour.  She improved her process by one hour a day, so the total time savings is $12.00 an hour with an annual savings of $12.00 x number of work days left in the year.)  Are there different ways to calculate the savings?”

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Topics: Employee Engagement

Election 2018: The Connection between Civic Engagement and Employee Engagement

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 5, 2018 1:15:59 PM

I’m going to do something that everyone who writes a business blog knows is a dangerous idea. I’m going to talk about the 2016 American election.

(Calm down, PR team, it’s going to be OK.)

Specifically, I want to talk about the 108,600,056 people who did not vote in the 2016 election. That’s 46.9% of eligible voters choosing to sit that one out. Not only did those folks decide not to weigh in on two dramatically different presidential candidates they also didn’t have a voice in who will represent them at the local and state level, nor on any ballot measures that the voters were asked to decide.

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Topics: Employee Engagement

6 Pressing Questions Your Employees Have About Continuous Improvement

Posted by Maggie Millard

Sep 13, 2017 7:35:00 AM

We’ve written quite a bit on this blog about the questions that business leaders and managers ask us about continuous improvement (CI), Lean management, improvement technology, and more.

Today, we thought it would be useful to focus on the questions that your employees almost certainly have, especially if a structured approach to improvement is new for your company. Front line employees are often reluctant to ask questions of management, but you can bet they ask each other.

In order to make sure that folks have accurate and helpful information, it pays to answer these questions - even if they are never openly asked.

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Topics: Change Management, Employee Engagement, Spread 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

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