Taivara Blog Post by Kevin Dwinnell

Kaizen Mind and Startup Continuous Improvement

Company Culture

Being of Kaizen mind is a focus on small improvements on a daily basis. In business, continuous improvement sounds like an enterprise Six Sigma issue and not a startups concern. Startups, however, have limited cash and time. To get an idea traction you need focus on doing the right thing now, next and into the foreseeable future. Focusing on the discovery of what’s meaningful and needs to improved is very much aligned with startups.

Focus on Meaningful Improvement

Don’t assume anything that can be improved should be. Ron Ashkenas gave solid advice when he tells us: Question whether processes should be improved, eliminated, or disrupted. Too many continuous improvement projects focus so much on gaining efficiencies that they don’t challenge the basic assumptions of what’s being done. For example, a six sigma team in one global consumer products firm spent a great deal of time streamlining information flows between headquarters and the field sales force, but didn’t question how the information was used. It wasn’t. Once they did, they were able to free up thousands of hours and apply them to customer-facing activities.

Be of Kaizen Mind

The value of Kaizen is both to your business as well as you. The easiest way to get into the practice is to apply it to your personal objectives and start to make it a habit. You can get into the Kaizen mind with these four steps.

  1. Plan: Decide the night before what you will focus on improving the next day, then plan how to work it into your day.
  2. Visualize: In the morning, make a mental plan and visualize your day ahead. Those mental footnotes will put triggers into your day that can remind you of your improvement intentions and allow you to respond in the manner you visualized.
  3. Set Reminders: Smartphones are well equipped for this. This Lifehacker article can jump-start those efforts and make sure you stay on the path of continuous improvement throughout the day.
  4. Review: At the end of the day remember to take note of how things went, even if you completely forgot about your goal, you can learn from that – and apply those lessons to tomorrow’s plan. This is the essential point of Kaizen – continually learning from your experience.
Company Culture

Apply Over Time

Masaaki Imai, who introduced Kaizen to the West, explained that any investment’s return will tend to degrade over time, due to aging and misuse. It’s through Kaizen that old investments are kept “fighting fit” and new investment is only focused on new tech or new processes. As a result, the gap between a kaizen company and a non-kaizen company will widen over time.

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