Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage. The easiest of all wastes and the hardest to correct is the waste of time, because wasted time does not litter the floor like wasted material.

– Henry Ford

Many a times I come across people asking me the difference between Lean and Kaizen. Earlier I had never thought  that there could be lack of understanding on this simple issue.

Once a client confirmed this misunderstanding ,when I had gone to conduct initial discussions. This client was looking for a Lean expert, who could implement lean in their

organization. I was told that the company had been carrying out kaizen activities for quite

a few years without much results and was looking to implement Lean . In fact I was asked since we are kaizen experts, would it be possible for us to offer consulting on Lean? Kaizen means change….change for better to be more precise and lean also means a change in one way . You are fat and want to become lean . Does it not involve  a change? We can also say  Lean is the end result and kaizen is the process of change. My Guru Masaki Imai , in fact believes that Lean is nothing but a result of thousands of Kaizens.

So what does it mean when you say you want to make your company lean . In simple terms it means making the company more competitive, more profitable. It happens thru a change process ,wherein the four major resources   Man , Machine , Material and Methods ( 4 Ms )  are managed  better. The current levels of performance of these resources are not good enough and must be changed for better. The performance parameters are Productivity , Quality , Cost , Delivery , Safety , and Morale (PQCDSM ).

Hundreds and thousands of kaizens  are done to remove Muda, Mura  and Muri ( Waste, Inconsistencies, and Strain) from the processes to improve these parameters.

In many Indian companies , I see misconception about kaizen . It is believed that it is meant for workers only and it brings small improvements.

So if you want to make your organization lean ,you will need to do kaizen . But before that we will need to clearly understand kaizen.

Firstly kaizen is not just for the bottom. It is for all including the top. In fact it starts from the top. Our first level of intervention usually in any client company is with the Top only, wherein we initiate Strategic  level kaizens touching issues like Vision , Mission, Organisational values , Top team work , Leadership, Market / Product analysis, Change paradigms etc.The Top management goes thru one full day brain storming session and comes out with a commitment and a broad  implementation plan .The real outcome of this exercise  is the total commitment of the Top management ,a very essential requirement of bringing in a change revolution in the organization.

And once we have the commitment at the top, then where is the question of small improvements. Improvements are not only substantial  ,but also speedier and sustainable.

There is another important aspect of the Kaizen definition . Kaizen does not mean one time change . It has to be on continual ( standard once achieved does not roll back ) basis. It has to be Everyday Kaizen , Everywhere Kaizen , Everybody Kaizen. It talks of total employee involvement…a company wide revolution brought thru Individual revolutions. I believe it is not even everyday involvement , but an involvement from moment to moment. Employees think  of change every moment and are  always conscious of bettering their performance.  In some of the best companies, each employee is involved in one kaizen project per week ,about 50 projects per year. So for a 10,000 strong organization, there will be half a million kaizen projects in a year , giving a  huge financial benefit without much investment .

This  is another  dimension of kaizen , no investment . Exploring the possibilities of bringing change without spending money or spending very little as compared to the return. The money that you spend, if any , is to be considered as an investment and not a cost. There is a saying that  if you have no money use your brain . And if you have no brain then sweat it out .This is the kaizen spirit.

The Kaizen journey is like a marathon race and is thus very challenging and not easy to implement . It is a serious game and requires lot of hard work ,empowerment and passion on the part of the middle and senior managers. The top management need to show lot of courage and endurance.

Since lot of micro level working goes in making all the processes effective , there is big role of workers, supervisors , engineers and the middle managers. Their roles and responsibilities become effective if the literacy levels at all  the levels are better. Management has a big role in encouraging literacy across the organizations. This in fact is, one of the major weak areas in  most Indian Organizations. Toyota boasts of its  highly successful TWI (Training Within Industry ) program to educate its employees at the shop floor level . TWI focuses on Job Instructions , Job relations, Job Methods Improvements. How many Indian organizations view this seriously?

Managers have a big role in spreading literacy. They in fact are the real Gurus or Coaches. Once they take that role and create a culture of mentor disciple, the leadership at all the levels sees a magical change. People become empowered and they start taking responsibilities as  owners of their respective gembas (place of action ).They start valuing time and the resources at their disposal.

Though trainings on simple kaizen concepts and principles like PDCA/SDCA;7 QC Tools; Standardization; Seven Mudas;5S; Visual Management; Autonomous Maintenance ;Pokayoke; Jidhoka; Kanban ;SMED;Why Why Analysis;RCA;OPLs, etc are essential ,companies are also looking for training programs to improve attitudes; engagement times of the people.

Can we think of programs which will improve the Physical , Mental ( working with focus and full concentration), Emotional ( working with positive mindset)  and the Spiritual (learning to show compassion at the work place; bringing joy and happiness at the work place ) energy levels of the employees? Such programs should help improve the engagement times  ( related to 480 mts/8 hrs and the net working time in a day )of the people at the gemba .

Can we bring in programs which will energize the organizational environment thru better team work ; leadership?

Kaizen starts with people and ends with people. It means value creation .So more kaizens means more value creation . And with more and more value creation means better performance results. After all , productivity is nothing but value addition/ creation. Whether its is Labor productivity or Asset productivity or Line / Plant productivity.

When we do Kaizen ,we believe in positivity. Positivity has to replace negativity, which is very high in many organizations at practically all the levels.   I can do spirit is totally missing . People start believing in themselves, instead of complaining or blaming each other.. Leaders make people realize their hidden  potential and guide them how to tap it.

There are issues related to Dignity of labor , importance to the Human Values at the workplace. Many companies casually approach these issues.

The understanding of the Law of cause and effect goes a long way as a tool , to solve many problems. I consider this as a very strong tool in creating a serious learning environment in the work place.

Another  major requirement of a continuous improvement program ( CIP ) is  the need to have  gemba friendly and cost conscious  managers. Taichi Ohno of Toyota is known to be one of the most gemba friendly  managers seen in the Auto industry. Thru his compassion ,genuine concern for others,and courage he could single handedly revolutionize the manufacturing practices at Toyota. He had that missionary zeal  in him to make Toyota a World leader.

At Kaizen Institute , we have developed a very practical way of implementing  Kaizen, thru our Kaizen Management System ( KMS ). A typical KMS model is shown below.

KMS spells the areas of focus for Kaizen and the tools /systems required to bring about the change, starting with the foundation building activities. Its a very simple but a comprehensive  system . Its focus is on implementation . After the initial diagnosis, training  and creation of a driving mechanism ,a series of kaizen events are organized  for achieving the milestones spelt out in the long term action plan.

As said earlier , Kaizen journey is a marathon and very challenging one . So it takes time . But once it gets going ,it is highly rewarding .

I end up with a quote from Mother Teresa …” Small things with great love….It is not how much we do ,but how much love we put into the doing. And it is not how much we give ,but how much love we put into the giving. To God there is nothing small