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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement

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Why We Care So Much About Continuous Process Improvement

Posted by Maggie Millard

Aug 24, 2017 11:18:18 AM

If you’ve visited this blog with any frequency, you may have noticed that we are very passionate about the work we do. Don’t get me wrong, it is work and we're in business to sell software, but way beyond that, we really believe in the work that our solution supports. Recently, a friend noticed that I was sharing articles about continuous process improvement on my personal Twitter feed and LinkedIn pages and she asked me why I was so into this stuff. That’s a good question so, Carol, this blog’s for you.

Every member of the KaiNexus team believes in the power of incremental improvement because:

It Starts from a Place of Optimism

The very fundamental premise of continuous process improvement is, “It can be better.”  That’s a pretty positive outlook from our point of view. Sure, problems will crop up and it often takes a lot of effort to replace the old way of doing things with something new, but if you believe in the power of positive change there isn’t much you can’t overcome.

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Topics: Daily Improvement, Improvement Culture

The Trick to Implementing Efficient Bottom-Up Improvement

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jul 6, 2017 7:37:00 AM

Organizations all over the world, in almost every industry, are turning to continuous improvement software to solve their most challenging issues. The most successful of these Lean organizations are aware that they need 5 elements to succeed in creating an improvement culture: bottom-up improvement, top-down improvement, strategy deployment, coaching, and visual management.

That sounds like a lot to excel at all at once, doesn’t it?

So how do these Lean organizations pull it off?

With continuous improvement software. In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at how technology facilitates improvement from the bottom-up, looking at it from both the perspectives of the staff AND of the coaches.

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With improvement software, employees are able to:

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Topics: Improvement Culture, Continuous Improvement Software

Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) and Snow Cones

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 21, 2017 7:26:00 AM

Preface: I’m in northern California today. Summer doesn’t even officially begin for three days and it is 107 degrees! So, the fact that I started thinking about what quality improvement and delicious frozen treats have in common should not imply that I’ve finally lost it.

Continuous quality improvement (CQI) is one of those things that is like a snow cone. It’s something that pretty much everyone can agree is awesome. Who wouldn’t want it?  “Always getting better is overrated,” said nobody – ever. Yet for some reason, not every organization has a plan for how to achieve CQI. Fewer still, have systems and processes in place to support it, and many that try never successfully reach their goals.

Why is that?

Let’s see if my snow cone analogy can help explain some of what conditions are necessary for CQI to catch hold.

 

If Neglected, It Will Melt

We don’t have hard data to back it up, but it is quite likely that the number one killer of CQI programs is simple neglect. Leadership gets very excited about this opportunity to revolutionize the organization, cut waste, and clobber the competition. They hold a meeting, send out a message, maybe even put up some signs and then go back to business as usual. Pretty soon, everything reverts to the old way of doing things, except that maybe employees are sharing Dilbert strips about CQI, or TPS, or Lean, or whatever you’ve called the program. (Don’t doubt that there is a Dilbert strip for all of them.) If you want to see what happens to CQI programs with disengaged leadership, just leave your snow cone on the driveway for the afternoon.

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Topics: Improvement Culture, Continuous Improvement Software

The 5 Things You Can't Spread Improvement Without

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jun 16, 2017 10:46:24 AM

When I was a kid, I used to slip out the back door in the mornings, whisk across the dewy yard, and sit in our tomato patch as the birds woke up across the neighborhood. It wasn’t a big garden - but it was big enough for a little girl to rest and smell the spring. If there’s one scent I associate with my childhood home in Virginia, it’s the tangy scent of blossoming tomato plants.

This year, for the first time in my adult life, I have my own yard. As the winter sky began to lighten and the woods behind my house turned from brown to green seemingly overnight, I couldn’t help but remember that childhood tomato patch. I ordered some heirloom seeds from the internet, dreaming of lemon-colored cucumbers, rainbows of tomatoes, and trailing vines of purple beans.

Now, to be frank, I have to say that my experience with gardening is limited to smelling my mom’s tomatoes. But how hard can growing seeds really be?

Turns out, it’s hard, you guys.

After tons of research, I decided on the plastic baggie method to sprout my little seeds. I laid them out with great precision, carefully spacing them and labeling the bags. I made large envelopes to keep them in the dark on a specially ordered heat mat.

And then I waited.

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A few days later, no progress.

A week later, a couple of sprouts!

A few days after that… a white, fuzzy, horrible mold smelling distinctly like death had overcome my would-be garden.

You see, I knew the basics of what a seed needs to grow. Moisture and warmth, and later, sunlight. Pretty basic stuff, right? We learned this in elementary school. 

What I didn’t realize was that they also need airflow. I did EVERYTHING else correctly, down to a T, but my seeds were still a total loss. You see, if you’re missing any one of the critical elements to growing plants, nothing will grow.

The same is true for an improvement culture.

It looks simple at first, and a quick Google search will tell you what you need to get started - a way to capture ideas, a way to collaborate, leadership behaviors - there’s so much content out there on this topic, it’s easy to feel like an expert. Then, when you struggle to spread your improvement culture, you’re left with a bag of moldy seeds wondering what went wrong.

Me? I was missing airflow. Your problems are much more difficult to solve, but as with my plants, the first step is figuring out exactly what you need for a sustainable improvement culture.

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Topics: Improvement Culture

The Intersection of Culture & Technology [Webinar Preview]

Posted by Kade Jansson

Mar 13, 2017 1:34:55 PM

If the amazing insights Matthew Cannistraro shared with listeners in the KaiNexus webinar The Intersection of Culture and Technology: Capturing Improvement Where it Happens could be summed up in a few words, it would be that technology influences results.

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Matthew Cannistraro is an Operations Analyst in the Sheet Metal Group at JC Cannistraro. He was joined by KaiNexus Vice-President of Improvement & Innovation Services and founder of LeanBlog.org Mark Graban, who hosted the webinar.

JC Cannistraro is a mechanical contractor who designs, fabricates and installs different systems for commercial buildings in Boston, with a specialization in hospitals and labs. It is a family business that has been transformed by technology.

“I think that that’s really important to understand, that like most organizations today, technology is a core part of all of our work flows. From design to installation, it’s a tool that everybody uses. And that is a really important part about how we use KaiNexus and how are improvement culture functions,” Cannistraro said.

Technology transformed them into a learning organization and allowed them to bring in young faces and to invite young students in co-operation programs, some of whom grew into leadership positions.

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Before they started using KaiNexus, JC Cannistraro used their own internal continuous improvement program, in which they tracked improvements with Google Sheets, but at some point this program went dead, flatlining in the number of improvements adopted over time. To combat this, they started using 5S training to make new improvements. Cannistraro stressed that the important thing 5S gave their teams a shared understanding of what they tried to improve, which in turn allowed them to see more opportunities for improvement. In fact, the result was too many opportunities to manage and soon a better solution was needed.

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Topics: Improvement Culture, Continuous Improvement Software, Webinars

5 Ways to Strengthen a Kaizen Culture

Posted by Greg Jacobson

Jan 10, 2017 1:26:23 PM

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “culture” as, “The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization; the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time.” Organizations interested in achieving continuous improvement through the practice of Kaizen could do no better than to make it a “characteristic feature of everyday existence.” That requires building and maintaining a Kaizen Culture.

There’s another interesting thing about the definition of the word culture. It shares a root with the word “cultivate,” which means, “to foster the growth of; to improve by labor, care, or study.” Cultivation requires intent, action, and attention. Kaizen culture does as well.

There are a number of things that successful leaders do to instill a Kaizen culture and keep it healthy.

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Topics: Kaizen, Improvement Culture

The Key to Successful Process Improvement

Posted by Henry Schneider

Nov 30, 2016 8:12:00 AM

The key to successful process improvement and change is commitment from management at all levels in the organization.

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Topics: Leadership, Improvement Culture

Are the Steps for Sustaining Improvement the Same for Everyone?

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 23, 2016 10:34:47 AM

The Harvard Business Review published an article called "4 Steps to Sustaining Improvement in Health Care" last week that walks through what exactly makes some organizations successful in long-term improvement initiatives. The information in this article is based on research done by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement on organizations that not only achieved significant results through continuous improvement but were also able to sustain them. In short, they learned that the key is to find a way to engage and standardize the processes of managers on the front lines.

Lean in the healthcare industry is comparatively new, having first made an appearance in 1995 (over 50 years after Toyota began using it in manufacturing automobiles). Hundreds of hospitals and healthcare systems are now recognizing that they can reduce cost, increase safety, and improve patient and staff satisfaction using the Lean improvement methodology, but many still find it difficult to transform their organizations in this way.

The "stickiness" of a cultural transformation depends on your ability to get started, spread it throughout the organization, and sustain your efforts. This HBR article focuses exclusively on healthcare, but the principles it outlines apply to any company, in any industry. Lean is universal, folks. Let's walk through the article and talk about how it applies to your business.


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Topics: Improvement Culture

Thoughts on 3 Problems with Top-Down Teams in an Improvement Culture

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 3, 2016 9:30:00 AM

Our VP of Sales sent me an email this morning regarding a Stanford Business article he found by Luke Stangel entitled “Three Problems with Top-Down Teams (and How to Fix Them).” The body of his email was simply “Thought this was interesting, given what we do.”

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Topics: Leadership, Improvement Culture

4 Strategies for Getting People to Embrace a New Continuous Improvement Software Platform

Posted by Matt Banna

Oct 13, 2016 9:02:00 AM

Introducing a new technology platform to your staff for any business function is a daunting task, and continuous improvement software is no different. As soon as you announce that you’re bringing in a new platform, people start to worry about having to learn how to use it and how much time it’s going to add to their day. When you really think about it, that’s a pretty fair concern and goes a long way toward explaining organizational resistance to change.

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Topics: Leadership, Software, Improvement Culture