By Jon Miller | Post Date: May 20, 2007 9:12 PM | Comments: 5
How do we do kaizen like Toyota? Just the fact that we're hearing this question more often is a good sign that either a) there is a growing awareness about there being a right way to do kaizen, or b) Toyota's PR machine is in full swing. We choose to believe the former.
There are many ways to answer this, and typically we ask a few clarifying questions before we do, but here are five of the most common bits of advice we give:
1. Quality follows quantity. Aim for quantity over quality when asking for kaizen ideas. There are so many things that need to be improved in any give process, but for everyone to see them it requires a "revolution of awareness" to use Taiichi Ohno's words. When the focus is on quantity, this will stimulate thinking, raise awareness, and by necessity people will find more small problems than big problems. Solving these small problems (taking root cause corrective action) prevents larger problems.
2. Standardize how you solve problems. The best kaizen ideas are the small ones that make you feel silly because they are so simple and obvious. Many quick improvements will be "just do it" items that (seem to) require no formal process. There will be many of these in the early going and it can be tempting to believe that you are getting good at kaizen, until you hit the more challenging issues, or when the obvious quick fix doesn't stick. This is where following a standardized approach to problem solving based on the scientific method can help keep your kaizen efforts on track. Not to be prescriptive, but the PDCA wheel is hard to beat.
4. Dig deeper. The warusa kagen, or condition of badness, is like sand on the beach. Sometimes the problem seems to go away when you scratch at the surface (sand) or when the waves roll in and out (variation in the 4M conditions, or in customer demand). Dig deep enough through "5 why" and other means until the true root cause is found so that countermeasures are effective.