Regular readers might know that I’m working on a second book project, about “kaizen” (continuous improvement) in healthcare. Sign up to receive more info about the book, Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Improvements.
I have a lot of experience teaching kaizen methods and principles to healthcare leaders and staff, but I’ve been re-reading many of the classic texts – including Masaaki Imai’s books Kaizen: The Key To Japan’s Competitive Success and Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management. One question that’s always interesting to talk about – and I’ll be posing it to people at a former client of mine today… what are some of the barriers to “kaizen” – both before Lean was introduced and after starting down the Lean pathway.
What are your experiences? Please leave a comment on the post here – if you’re from healthcare, please say so. You can enter your name as “Anonymous” if you like. Please contact me if you think you have stories (negative or positive) that you might want to have included in the book, or leave your name and email address with your comment. This will be the first in a series of posts about Kaizen, so there will be plenty of chances to tell your story. From reading Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management again, this time on my Kindle, and I shared some notes online (or at least I think you should be able to read the comments as I’ve made them “public”), quotes such as:
In this context, the word cost does not mean cost cutting, but cost management. Cost management oversees the processes of developing, producing, and selling products or services of good quality while striving to lower costs or hold them to target levels. Cost reduction in gemba should come as a result of various activities carried out by management. Unfortunately, many managers try to reduce costs only by cutting corners; typical actions include firing employees, restructuring, and beating up suppliers. Such cost cutting invariably disrupts the process of quality and ends in quality deterioration.
Ohno urged managers, too, to visit gemba. He would say, “Go to gemba every day. And when you go, don’t wear out the soles of your shoes in vain. You should come back with at least one idea for kaizen.”
Hence the five golden rules of gemba management: 1. When a problem (abnormality) arises, go to gemba first. 2. Check the gembitsu (relevant objects). 3. Take temporary countermeasures on the spot. 4. Find the root cause. 5. Standardize to prevent recurrence.
and the funniest:
Jogging for health should be done in the gym, not in gemba! Ironically, some factories are equipped with gyms that have running tracks, but the workers spend more time jogging in gemba during working hours than in the gym during off hours.
One challenge he cites:
In Japan, the suggestion system is an integrated part of individual-oriented kaizen. The Japanese-style suggestion system emphasizes morale-boosting benefits and positive employee participation over the economic and financial incentives that are stressed in a Western-style system.”
What’s your reaction to that statement? What are your challenges with instituting a “kaizen spirit” in your organization?