Updated: Jan 30
Perhaps you’ve heard of continuous improvement or Total Quality Management. Both of these are based on Kaizen, a philosophy that originated in Japan and is all about encouraging change for the good. The overall notion is that it’s better to make smaller, continuous improvements rather than bigger, sweeping major changes. It’s all about tweaking the process if you will.
Kaizen, or the Kaizen Loop, is an integral component of BOSS, or Business Operating Support System, an agile operating system that incorporates ideas and best practices from the most effective methodologies in business, software and manufacturing. BOSS creates efficiencies through a structured approach with five phases that set the Vision (or North Star), Strategy, Execution, Standardization and Business Improvement Processes needed to achieve alignment on company objectives, goals and measurable results utilizing leading and lagging KPIs.
The Kaizen Loop falls into the fifth phase, Business Improvement Process, and is based on the belief that there is no such this as the status quo. Kaizen calls for small, incremental changes designed to meticulously and methodically contribute to larger, substantial changes over the long term. This method of change allows for less sudden change which can cause problems within an organization. It’s also more palatable to employees and the business itself, both of which can react poorly to abrupt changes.
The Kaizen Loop is primarily driven by your organization’s KPIs and those KPIs are the metrics which inform you as to how, when and where to apply your Kaizen efforts. Let’s take a look at how that works.
There are two general types of the Kaizen Loop: The Kaizen of Strategy and the Kaizen of Standards. Kaizen of Strategy focuses on the flow of materials and information and is often identified with the reorganization of multiple departments or the entire company. Kaizen of Standards means focuses on the improvement of individual departments workgroups.
With Kaizen of Standards, BOSS Standardization tools are enacted. As written about here, Standardization is the overarching focus of the fourth phase of BOSS and involves setting the basic foundation for achieving your desired business outcome. Standardization is the establishment of widely understood, time-tested rules that guide people within your organization how to complete tasks and projects. Standardization eliminates process guesswork and helps ensure quality, productivity and, not inconsequentially, employee moral
Triggers, Accountabilities and Best Practices are components of Standardization. A Trigger is an event such as an email or specific time that signifies an action needs to be taken. Accountabilities are used to assign a responsible individual for tasks that need to be completed. A best practice is a living document that outlines the process necessary to accomplish a given task.
Kaizen of Standards, if you will, is the overarching business theory layered atop the BOSS Standardization toolset which enacts the theory and methodology of Kaizen, putting it into action and accomplishing individual objectives and key results, all of which lead to the overall improvement of business process and product delivery.
The proper application of Kaizen Loop, as the name implies, is that of a loop, a continuous examination of business process -- and the KPIs which power and guide those processes -- in real time with small changes made on the fly coupled with -- and this is the loop element -- monthly and annual reviews to ensure improvements -- the right improvements -- are being made across all aspects of the business.
With a Kaizen Loop-fueled approach to business process and standardization, your organization will see less waste, experience improvement in employee morale and retention, experience efficiencies that will lead to increased competitiveness, witness the elimination of process-hindering problems and realize an improvement in employee teamwork and commitment.
Animated Explainer Video: