Kaizen and Employee Involvement.

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

Suggestion Programs to increase employee involvement

The purpose of this system is to motivate the employees to provide as many suggestions as possible.  One of the management’s responsibilities is to share with their teams the company goals. Another responsibility is to educate them on how their daily work connects to those goals.  If they accomplish those tasks, the team will understand how they can support those goals. Therefore, they will suggest things aligned with those objectives. 

The suggestion program should be easy to participate in, have clear rules and standards. Forms containing all the required information and acceptance criteria are an example. Also, other ways to facilitate participation are guidelines for prioritization and how to provide feedback. Other areas to cover with simple procedures are ways to motivate participation, decision-making, program promotion, and recognition.

Quality Circles

Quality circles are activities designed to address quality, safety, cost, and productivity issues. They are informal and formed by voluntary small-groups. You know your employees are engaged in continuous improvement when they suggest solutions. Another hint comes when they ask to meet with other teammates to work on an idea.

The idea can be part of the possible countermeasures of kaizen in progress. Another possibility is a simple checklist to minimize errors or to create visual marks to improve a process. Management support for these groups is vital. They can help to remove obstacles and facilitate resources and training. Also, they oversee what is going on to ensure meeting policies and critical criteria.

The temperature of employee involvement

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.

What activities are critical to achieving the Kaizen goals?

the foundation for achieving kaizen goals

The focus of kaizen is quality, cost, and delivery.  A few activities should take place daily to achieving the kaizen goals. Some of those activities are quality and safety management, cost and logistics management, and processes, products, and materials follow-up.  Other daily activities are the major Kaizen activities or pillars which are standardization, 5S, and waste elimination.

Achieving kaizen goals with people’s participation

Kaizen or continuous improvement is a people-based based system.  It only works when there is active participation from the employees.  If you forget that the people are the heart of the lean-continuous improvement system, all efforts to implement kaizen as part of the culture will be in vain.

The activities mentioned in the first paragraph will be successful only if the company has a solid foundation of employee involvement elements or systems.  Those are teamwork, self-discipline, improvement suggestions, morale enhancement, and quality circles.

The foundation

Respect is one of the most important principles of lean.  One way to show respect is by taking the time to develop the team’s skills.  They deserve to have learning opportunities to learn and practice. Kaizen focuses on hands-on activities rather than classroom instruction. In other words, it is an exercise of learning by doing. Continuous improvement uses a team approach, with people from different departments and organizational levels working together towards a common goal.  While working together, they learn new skills and acquire self-discipline together.  They also get to know each other as people, gaining an understanding of their differences, and building upon them.

These type of activities increases collaboration, engagement, and morale.  When learning and coaching are based on respect and genuine desire to develop the team skills to increase their knowledge and empower them with some decisions, the base or foundation for continuous improvement is solid.  Employee involvement activities are critical to achieving improvement goals in the areas of quality, cost, and delivery.