Business Excellence with kaizen Operational Excellence for Business Excellence: The Kaizen Way!

Author / Editor: Divyakumar M Soneji / Dominik Stephan

All of us know that a lot of grit, commitment, hard work combined with smart work is required to turn ‘dreams into action and success.’ Every business aspires for excellence in its business; whether it is profits, growth or fairness. Dealing with all stake holders is the corner stone of business excellence.

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Kaizen thinking focuses on waste reduction by making people capable to identify waste and remove it.
Kaizen thinking focuses on waste reduction by making people capable to identify waste and remove it.
(Picture: Kaizen Institute Consulting Group)

If only all wishes could come true! All of us know that a lot of grit, commitment, hard work combined with smart work is required to turn ‘dreams into action and success’. Every business aspires for excellence in its business, whether; it is profits, growth or fairness. Dealing with all stake holders is the corner stone of business excellence.

What are the building blocks of Business Excellence?

Strategy: Let us term it as ‘Strategic Excellence’. This is the organizations ability to think of ways to create differentiation. Strategy must help an organization stand out—it is about making solid plans which can lead the organization towards growth and profits.

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On the flip side is ‘Operational Excellence’. Strategy must be met with good execution. An operation is the ‘bridge’ that connects strategy with business success or excellence. Let me assume for a moment that the Strategy part is done—is in place and well thought of. The focus now shifts to Operations. How can we execute the plans while ensuring that the resources are used most efficiently? This is where Lean thinking or Kaizen comes in. Lean or Kaizen is about getting more with less or just the right quantity of inputs.

Operation Excellence demands Lean and Kaizen thinking! Lean or Kaizen thinking focuses on waste reduction by making people capable to identify waste and remove it. Let us look at two types of waste.

Visible Waste – waste that can be seen:

When one walks into a shop floor there are many things one can observe with minimal efforts such as dirt, disorder, leaking machines, material placed in a disorganized manner and people using no personal protective equipment and much more. These are right there, in front of one’s eyes. The challenge is to observe it and not just ‘see’ it every day! When one starts observing; it is said the process of change begins! No observation, no problems; no problems, no improvements! So observation + improvement are a must.

Invisible Waste – difficult to see and attack:

What about: Unused human potential? Poor sharing of information? Office related delays, slow or poor decision making, waiting, complex processes? These wastes are also killers, but often disguised!

Let me just take the first one. Unused human potential is a national challenge, let alone it being an organizational challenge. Millions of people with fertile brains, but untapped! How do we deal with this? Often in organizations, there is no system in place to engage with employees in order to tap their ideas and improvement suggestions! They are simply asked to follow orders! The going trend is that majority must only act, while a privileged few will think! But this is about to change... learn more on page 2!

How about waste with purchasing or waste in design or R&D processes? These are not readily visible and one must engage tools such as process mapping and value stream mapping to get to the bottom.

Add or Delete?

The final challenge is to add or delete while improving! Most people prefer to add resources or throw resources at a problem. For example, if a machine is breaking down often; add a new machine, is a common management decision. Or if sales are less, add more sales men or if the finished goods warehouse is cramped, add more space is the common solution. While ‘adding’ maybe the appropriate solution in some situations; improving by ‘deleting’ is the Kaizen or Lean way to solve problems!

Try to delete waste and problems, before deciding to add new resources! Can we stop the breakdowns in the machine, before buying a new machine? Can we learn and apply total productive maintenance? Can we study the sales process and find and burst the bottle necks before hiring more salesmen? Can the flow of inventory be improved via just in time methods to solve the space crunch at the FG warehouse by using total flow management?

So one can see that there are many challenges existing while one tries to convert plans into actions, but for a Lean and Kaizen mind these challenges are opportunities to improve! The Lean mind looks for visible and invisible waste. It is a mind that looks for deletion before addition!

In closing let me share with you that Operational Excellence impacts the customers via high quality products, predictable delivery schedules, stable pricing and responsive customer service.

Are the above not the drivers of Business Excellence? Given below is a four level system that can help organizations to create a culture of Operational Excellence or Continuous Improvement. Unless improvements happen daily, nothing is going to change. Therefore, it is very important to practice Daily Kaizen. The four levels are mentioned below:

  • Organize teams (standardize team meetings, set a mission and get clear KPIs)
  • Organize workspaces (5S in theory and practice)
  • Normalize (Standardize do-check-act circle to adopt best methods and reduce time wasted)
  • Make improvement (plan-do-check-act circle to simplify and optimize the work flow with each level going through a standardized process of pilot selection, team analysis, train the trainer programs, visualization and audits.

What is Daily Kaizen?

  • Focused on changing behavious in line with Kaizen approach
  • Involve all employees in frequent Kaizen actions (important).
  • Focus on Kaizen leadership by the Gemba (real place) leaders.
  • Faciliate implementation of wok standards
  • Control key KPIs on a frequent basis and act immediatly with counter measures
  • Create a culture of operational excellence (OE) or continuous improvement (CI).

Why should organizations implement Daily Kaizen?

  • Small, daily changes lead to big, long term improvements
  • People take ownership for their work
  • New habits are formed
  • Teams and leaders know what to do and how to do it better
  • People learn to spot and eliminate waste and feel encouraged to make suggestions
  • Mistakes are not hidden, but seen as gifts or lessons
  • Improvements are based on daily, doable, small changes
  • Ideas come from the employees themselves
  • Small improvements require less time and capital investment
  • Teamwork improves naturally
  • People are motivated from within
  • It humanizes the workplace
  • Quick wins occur
  • Simple, visual and accesible standards are created
  • People at all levels are inspired to make changes
  • Everyone sees sustainable changes in a very short time

The OE or CI culture is critical for sustainability; and to change it, we have to change our management system. If we stop following through OE or CI practices owing to things that seem stable and in control, it is certain that we will soon face unstable and out-of-control processes and fall back to zero.

* The author is Head of Marketing at the Kaizen Institute India & Africa

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