Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
Home » Lean » Kaizen should be good for employees (#Lean)

Kaizen should be good for employees (#Lean)

November 10th, 2011 Posted in Lean, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , ,

I think you will spend 131 seconds reading this post

Challenge vs Skill Diagram

Challenge vs Skill Diagram

When done properly, kaizen (japanese Lean term for continuous improvement) should help employees move “in the zone” or what has been called “psychological flow” (see Wikipedia article).

In an organization where there’s no kaizen, entropy increases and work conditions worsen: administrativia is rampant, people move, contacts are lost, procedures are obsoleting and muda (wasteful activities) start cramping, thereby resulting in increasing mura (unevenness) and muri (unreasonable, overburden) as well, a vicious circle.

After that vicious circle has started, don’t expect your employees to improve anything: first, they probably won’t have time to do so, and second, why would they take care of the organization when you’re don’t taking care of them in the first place?

As a consequence, kaizen is a way to stretch your employees’ strengths (as said by Peter Drucker “the role of leadership is to align strengths so as to make weaknesses irrelevant”) and move them from an Apathy position (see lower left of diagram) directly to a Flow condition (upper right).

The challenges should correspond to their skill level, always, for if you derail from that, you run the risk of being too pushy with them not enough skilled, resulting in Worryness. Or the opposite: too skilled with not enough of a challenge, and they feel Bored.

Indeed, that skill improvement is also the purpose of kaizen: a way to develop your employees.

The more they improve (kaizen) your organization, the more they learn and their skills increase. And so you’re able to give them more and more challenging problems to solve.

The first few problems are usually easy to solve (the so-called “low-hanging fruits”) and require few problem-solving skills from them, which is relevant given they lack of experience in it. Then, as the simple problems disappear, they too get more experienced and are therefore ready to tackle those pesky tiny grains of sands that prevent your processes to run smoothly. This has been clearly explained in “Toyota Culture” (Liker and Hoseus) in the very first pages. An organization should have two kind of mutually improving processes: that of building what the customers want and that of developing employees (from hiring to leaving, hopefully by retiring). The link between the two being problem detection and problem solving.

Beware the kaizen approach that doesn’t place the employees at its core: it runs the risk of moving into the Worry or Anxiety psychological domains. A sure way to ruin your workforce and, in the long-term, threaten the survival of the organization.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Mail List

Join the mailing list

Check your email and confirm the subscription