Continuous improvement, also known as “Kaizen”, is a philosophy and set of principles that focuses on making small, incremental changes to processes, systems, and activities in order to continuously improve them. The goal of continuous improvement is to eliminate waste and increase efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.
The origins of continuous improvement can be traced back to the lean manufacturing techniques developed by Toyota in the 1950s. The lean philosophy emphasizes the elimination of waste and the pursuit of perfection, and it has since been adopted by organizations in a variety of industries.
One of the key principles of continuous improvement is the idea of “flow.” This means that work should be organized and performed in a way that allows it to move smoothly and efficiently from one step to the next, without interruption or delay. By focusing on creating a smooth flow of work, organizations can reduce waste and improve the overall performance of their processes.
Another key principle of continuous improvement is the idea of “pull.” This means that work should be performed only when there is an actual demand for it, rather than being pushed through the process regardless of whether it is needed. By using pull systems, organizations can reduce inventory and avoid the waste that results from overproduction.
Continuous improvement also emphasizes the importance of engaging and empowering employees in the improvement process. By involving employees in identifying and addressing problems, organizations can tap into their collective knowledge and experience to drive continuous improvement.
By embracing the philosophy of continuous improvement, organizations can drive ongoing improvements in their processes, systems, and activities, leading to increased efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.
Additional Resources on Continuous Improvement
- Cardboard, Duct Tape, and String: The Do-First Mindset & Meaning of Kaizen
- The Hard Work of Making Hard Work Easier
- “What Did I Transform Today?”
- Michikazu Tanaka of Daihatsu on “What I Learned from Taiichi Ohno”
Examples Across Industries
- Manufacturing — Thrustmaster Comes Around
- Healthcare — View from the Hospital Floor: How to Build a Culture of Improvement One Unit at a Time
- Hospitality — A Radical Redesign to Making Crudito
- Construction — Respect for People: Making the Job Easier for Workers
- Agriculture — Tending the Roots of Lean with Lean Farmer Ben Hartman
- Administration — Lean Thinking Helps City of Chula Vista with Budget Crunch
- Software — Doubling the Number of Performant Apps Using Kaizen