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The 20 Kaizen keys explained with examples

Kaizen is an important topic in Agile practices but few people understand the essence. In this article, we present 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples.

20 areas that need to be improved, improved in importance with examples:

Clean and tidy. Everywhere and all the time.

A clean environment is a necessary condition for improving the workplace and predisposes employees to feel good from the very beginning. When everything is arranged and arranged, it improves the efficiency of the company many times over in each process. Here we are not just talking about cleanliness, but also organized files, folders, and systems, where each employee can find the necessary information in seconds. Reference: “Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples

Team: HR and employees

Strategy: The HR department to create a sheet with 10 rules that each employee must follow and stick them on a piece of paper in each room to constantly remind them about them.
Possible problems: It takes time for each employee to understand and start using the rules.

Teamwork. Focus on teamwork to involve everyone in enthusiastic improvements.

Everyone has a different view of the problem. When more people take part in a discussion, the problem can be reconsidered and solved differently than if only the same people solve these problems each time. Reference: “Kaizen strategy with 20 keys to Workplace Improvement by Iwao Kobayashi

Team: all employees

Strategy: The management team to involve their employees in the discussion of important topics and support them always through clear communication and knowledge sharing.

Possible problems: It takes more time, which reduces efficiency.

Continuous improvement of the workplace. Creating improvement as a way of life, continuous improvement of work, and a better workplace.

Flex desks, moving desks, relaxing rooms, fast systems, and the latest technology models are just some of the examples that are important for improving a workplace. When you are in an environment comfortable for concentration and work, all teams feel much more productive and will gladly go to work. Reference: “20 Keys to Workplace Improvement (Manufacturing & Production) explained with examples and strategies

Team: HR and management

Strategy: Create an internal survey to identify the most important and necessary things for employees to improve the work environment. Then choose the ones that will contribute the most and take the least resources.

Possible problems: Not everyone will want to fill out the survey

Disciplined, rhythmic work. Synchronized systems where all parts work together.

Every system has been striving for synchronized systems for years. Using different from the beginning, leads to misinformation, time-consuming, and efficient work, as many teams need the information of a previous team. Reference: “Build an Agile Kaizen strategy and methodology with 20 keys to workplace improvement

Team: Development team, Product Managers, Scrum Master, Engineers

Strategy: Implementing software such as Jira and Slack would help keep teams synchronized and efficient.

Possible problems: Budget and time

Waste. Constantly identifying and eliminating things that either do not add value or even destroy it.

There is always a way to improve a process. This is what all companies strive for until perfection and process facilitation are achieved. Constant monitoring and research of teams and their tasks help to find bottlenecks in the processes and their optimization. Reference: “The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples

Team: Business analysts

Strategy: Review the entire process by a business analyst by identifying the bottleneck and finding a solution to optimize the process. Reference: “Management Educational Library

Possible problems: Time

Support and training for employees. Train employees to work at a higher level so that they can increase the value they add to the work.

Investing in teams through knowledge is extremely important for improving people’s work and value. That is why many companies nowadays allocate training budgets to their employees.

Team: HR

Strategy: To organize monthly events, visits to seminars, and team training on human resources. Reference: “20 Agile Kaizen keys to workplace improvement

Possible problems: Budget

Management style with commitment and participation. Work with all people to engage their minds and hearts, both in their work and in their hands.

Transparency and clear communication are very important goals for a team. Engaging all employees and informing them of every important step helps in both people’s effectiveness and responsibility. Reference: Management and Business –

Team: Human resources

Strategy: Introducing joint team meetings and discussions.

Possible problems: Taking away valuable time from employees that can be used to achieve a goal or job.

Technology. Use and training of more complex technologies and adaptation of teams to them.

With the introduction of new technologies comes the problem of learning new work processes. Organizing training and training for the teams would help in the introduction of new technologies. Reference: “Kaizen and the 20 keys to workplace improvement (of Iwao Kobayashi): Real Examples

Team: Development team and Team managers

Strategy: Introduce training for the respective technology before starting to work with it

Possible problems: Resistance from the teams to adapt to new technologies and processes

Zero monitoring. Build systems that avoid the need for constant human monitoring. Instead, create a team that works to maintain and improve your technology.

Achieving this method of work requires training and team building from the very beginning. This way people will know when an action needs to be improved or there is a problem in the system. Reference: “Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization

Team: Developers, Admin

Strategy: To build habits in employees, as well as certain SLA of processes.

Possible problems: too many responsibilities

Reduced inventory and lead time. Dealing with overproduction and reducing costs and deadlines.

A popular similar model of work is Just in time delivery. This can be achieved through the implementation of these activities – planning, waste disposal, technology, teamwork, and training. Reference: “What is Kaizen methodology

Team: Team management

Strategy: Planning, waste disposal, technology, teamwork, and training

Possible problems: Time and budget

Reduce the time to change dies and machines for more flexible operation

Constantly changing matrices and machines reduces the efficiency of a team. To this end, it is necessary to train the team in such a way as to use the machines as efficiently as possible.

Team: Product development

Strategy: Appoint mentors with experience in using the products efficiently

Possible problems: Finding a good mentor

Support. Maintenance of machines by people who work with them, not by external specialists. This allows constant adjustment and minimum downtime. Reference: “Every Scrum Master must know the Kaizen principles

An internal team of developers or software engineers is always a plus for the company, as they can find the problem much faster and fix it. Hiring external specialists in most cases to solve the problem takes much longer until the situation is clarified.

Team: development team

Strategy: Hire an internal development team to monitor and maintain the systems.

Possible problems: Lack of process documentation

Defects. Defect management, including defective parts and connections.

Identifying defects and obstacles is an important process from the beginning for a team of developers. Distinguishing one from an early stage helps the team find a solution together and deal with the problem as quickly as possible. For this purpose, it is necessary for the analyst to monitor the process and anticipate the relevant obstacles at an early stage.

Team: Business Analyst, Development team

Strategy: Assign an analyst to a team to monitor the processes in detail.

Possible problems: lack of specific knowledge and analyst in the team

Planning. The timing of the operations is planned to create a flow of high-quality and affordable products.

In scrum and agile methodology, planning is a very important step in the process of creating high-quality and affordable products.
Tasks that take more time and resources should be prioritized accordingly with tasks that take less time and resources. Depending on the product, however, not every task can be determined by specific time and resources.

Team: Scrum Master, Product Owner, Product Management

Strategy: Create an up-to-date worksheet and prioritize it according to time and resources.

Possible problems: it is not always possible to plan the time of a task correctly

Creating interconnected cells where flow and withdrawal are the main agenda.

Creating processes that are in order and do not interfere is an important step in implementing order and discipline in a team. That is why the team needs to know exactly when, where and what needs to be done. Small things like a common calendar for each team and a Kanban dashboard in which each team member knows who is working on what would help with such processes.

Team: Scrum Master, Team Management, Product Management

Strategy: Use a shared calendar and software like Trello on a team

Possible problems: not everyone will want to exchange information constantly.

Work in cross-function. Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change departments to gain experience in other areas.

In large companies, this type of work is quite popular, as it helps internal employees to understand the whole process and apply what they have learned properly. Also, working with different teams and departments increases people’s knowledge and career development.

Team: Management team, development team, human resources

Strategy: The HR department to stimulate career development in different departments by creating a career plan, which should be guided by the management departments of each team

Possible problems: it takes time to get used to one department and way of working. Not every employee would like to work in separate teams permanently.

Partnerships between suppliers. Work with suppliers, making them part of an ever-improving chain instead of struggling with them.

When a company works with many partnerships, it is important that they feel part of the whole process. The fact that they contribute to the creation of the final product makes them an important companion for the success of the company. That is why attitude is very important, transparency and correctness. In this way, a company will succeed instead of fighting with suppliers.

Team: Production, Management

Strategy: To choose only the most important and fair partnerships that will contribute to the creation of a successful end product

Possible problems: incorrect attitude

Efficiency. Balancing financial problems with other areas that indirectly affect costs

Prioritizing tasks that contribute to more profit and less cost increases team efficiency. Therefore, the company needs to invest more time in the sale of products that will be more profitable than others.

Team: Product Management

Strategy: Establish KPI to help prioritize and balance certain cost-benefit tasks

Possible problems: Incorrect costing or unexpected profits

Conservation. Saving resources to avoid waste, both for the company and society and the environment.

Sustainability is a very important topic nowadays. Optimizing processes in a way that does not harm the environment is an important goal for all companies. One of the most common examples is the use of digital technologies instead of paper and the reduction of harmful emissions through the use of useful materials.

Team: HR

Strategy: Replace all paper documents with digital forms

Possible problems: Adapting teams and changing bad habits

Technology and competitive engineering. Understanding and using methods such as Concurrent Engineering and Taguchi methods.

The Taguchi method is a method used for quality control. This method is used in product development to reduce the occurrence of defects and damage to finished products.

Team: Scrum Master, Development team, product owner

Strategy: Use this method when testing the product to eliminate all errors related to the product.

Possible problems: Elimination of errors; understanding and application of this method of work


Author: Anton Radev

Front-End Web Developer

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