CI 101

Kaizen and Employees Involvement. The role of suggestion programs and quality circles.

The daily activities that are critical to achieving the kaizen goals are the three pillars, standardization, 5S, and waste elimination.  These activities are successful only if the foundation, made up of employee engagement activities, is strong.  The employee involvement activities are teamwork, self-discipline, moral enhancement, improvement suggestions, and quality circles.  The last two provide information on how active employees are in continuous improvement activities.

Suggestion Program

The purpose of this system is to motivate the employees to provide as many suggestions as possible.  One of the management responsibilities is to share with their teams the company goals and educate them on how their daily work connects to those goals.  If they accomplish that, hopefully, the team will suggest things aligned to those goals. 

The suggestion program should be easy to participate, have clear rules, standards (form with all required information, acceptance criteria, how to prioritize, time to provide feedback), and simple procedures that cover the areas of how to motivate participation, decision-making, how to provide feedback, program promotion, and recognition.

Quality Circles

Quality circles are an informal and voluntary small-group activity designed to address quality, safety, cost, and productivity issues.  You know your employees are engaged in continuous improvement when they suggest or ask to meet with other teammates to work on an idea.  The idea could be part of the kaizen they are working with, a simple checklist to minimize errors, or to create visual marks to improve a process.  Management support to these groups is vital because they can help to remove obstacles, facilitate resources and training, as well as oversee what is going on to ensure that policies and critical criteria are met.

These systems or activities are excellent ways to take the temperature of the continuous improvement effort.  The more participation, the more active and engage the employees are.  They are also excellent vehicles to boost the employee’s morale, which is another daily activity to ensure kaizen success.  It is very important to practice respect for the people, respect their ideas, and always provide feedback.  The main idea behind all these is to develop your people, to provide the environment to explore, learn, and change.

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