Home Kaizen Ideas – It was an honor to present with my friend Chip Ponsford, MD, veterinarian, at the Veterinary Leadership Conference hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association this month. Check out Chip’s blog and book Lean for Veterinary Medicine.
About a week before the conference, Chip was the lead presenter for a webinar on the broader Lean methodology and its applications in veterinary practice. At the conference, Chip set the record straight (he talked about the “why” – why this is important for veterinarians and practitioners), and then I was the keynote speaker on the “kaizen” approach to continuous improvement.
Home Kaizen Ideas
During the session, I shared some Kaizen examples from a large veterinary practice (where I spent a week as a trainer) and Chip shared his own examples from small practice settings.
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One example of an improvement implemented by Chip was as simple as making it easier to find syringes in a drawer, as documented here:
Initially, we focused on small, low-cost, low-risk improvements. There is a time and place for larger, more systematic projects and improvement efforts, but you have to start somewhere.
Discussing problems, opportunities, ideas, or solutions is the second step of this process. Employees are engaged and empowered, but their managers and leaders must be coaches and facilitators – partners in improvement. Managers are responsible for “the system” but do not have all the answers. Employees play an important role in tackling problems, brainstorming, and testing solutions.
The first two questions (one during the interview and one at the end) were essentially the same. I’ll rephrase it:
Kaizen Cycle For Continuous Improvement In Operational Process
In my experience this is unlikely to happen. Employees tend to be wary or even fearful.
Employees are more likely to turn to their manager for approval—even for small, uncontroversial, low-risk, easy-to-test, and reversible changes.
At the very least, executives set boundaries around “here are the types of changes you can test without permission” — things like improving Chip’s desk drawer.
If managers are truly afraid of their employees and their judgment, they may have hired the wrong people (and who is responsible for that?).
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If “really stupid” means (in the manager’s words) “something didn’t work,” leaders may need to reframe that “failure” as “learning.” You don’t want people to try something irresponsible… People need a reasonable hypothesis… “If we do this, this will happen.” But sometimes you get different results than you expected. This is an inevitable part of the improvement process. If leaders want “guaranteed success,” people will be afraid to try to improve.
If “really stupid” means “dangerous” or “illegal”, I’d be really surprised if that happened. Even if a really stupid idea comes along, there’s a good chance we’ll embrace it
Point to looking for a better idea (and we are keen to do this because there is likely a problem that needs to be solved).
If “really stupid” means “this doesn’t work,” then that should be the starting point for our discussion, aimed at finding something that sounds better.
Kaizen Method: How To Continuously Improve Your Company’s Performance
Instead of throwing away this card or “rejecting” the idea, start a conversation about what can be done to resolve the situation.
Despite these skeptical questions (which I heard in other situations), I believe that based on other questions, comments, and follow-up conversations, the audience was excited about the idea of Lean and continuous improvement.
I was only able to attend a few other lectures, but there were many ideas and topics aligned with Lean and Kaizen. Two vets talked about how to make the most of your improvement ideas, and there were many similarities to Kaizen, even if they used different terminology.
Another session (presented by people from this group) shortly before ours was on “Practicing Management at the Next Level.” There were many ideas and themes that were aligned with Lean and Kaizen.
Kaizen Events Help Overcoming Challenges
Final point… Another common question from leaders concerns extrinsic rewards for continuous improvement efforts. With internal motivation we can achieve more (see previous posts and this podcast with Dan Pink).
Many companies want to “implement” Lean (which means a “predict and plan” model) or choose a few Lean tools that sound good (rather than viewing Lean as a comprehensive, empirically based system).
There are many startups. A large percentage of them may believe they can become a so-called billion-dollar “unicorn” startup. However, the chances of this happening are very low. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, right?
What do you think of this? Are you afraid that people who practice Kaizen or Lean will do really stupid things? Have you overcome this fear? What I saw?
Lean At Home 2
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© Mark Graban & Constancy Inc, 2005 – 2023, all rights reserved. Unauthorized use or republication is not permitted. The Lean East team uses proven continuous improvement principles and tools to support organizational change. Toyota Motor Corporation has developed several of these Lean principles for continuous improvement, and one of the core principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS) is “Kaizen.”
Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates to “change for the better” and is the result of many small improvements to a system or process. The improvements collected ultimately lead to significant results.
Kaizen applies to individuals as well as organizations. Many small, repeated victories lead to big change; This is the “compound effect” in action. Most of us are too busy to take four weeks off to learn a language, but we can easily make time for a five-minute lesson a day. I personally have been spending 5 minutes a day (that’s about 180 hours!) learning a language for the past 6 years.
How To Use Kaizen To Continuously Improve Your Business
I have read countless books on personal improvement and tried many processes and techniques. Now I share with you some simple steps that I have implemented for myself and others. Read on to learn more about Lean East’s approach to developing new Personal Kaizen habits.
The first step in Personal Kaizen is to set your improvement goals. What areas of your life would you like to improve? Why? What are the key results you are aiming for?
This article discusses the objectives of Lean East. For this article about habits, we’ll choose an example that many readers can relate to:
Once you have identified your goal, the next step is to identify and categorize your current behaviors that are (or are not) contributing to your goal.
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Lean East uses a combination of process and data analysis tools to assess the current situation. For Personal Kaizen, I recommend this three-step process:
Please note that these are behaviors (actions) and not results or aspirations. See example behavior in sticky notes below.
The three to four behaviors you identify from the PICK schedule will have the greatest impact on achieving your goal. Make this behavior a habit by following the three-step process.
The first step is to make the behavior easier and easier for you. There are three ways:
Kaizen Templates: Kaizen Idea Suggestion Form
An anchor is an existing routine or event that reminds you to perform the simplified behavior above. This is one of the keys to making a desired behavior a habit.
Another key to developing a habit is to associate the completion of a behavior with positive feelings.
Celebrate after completing your simple new behavior. This releases hormones in your brain to “execute” the new habit. Don’t be tempted to skip this step like I did: it really works! Here are some examples of ceremonies you can use:
My favorite thing to do is check that I’ve done this behavior. This allows me to see progress and encourages the desire to continue the behavior so I don’t break the chain. The language learning app DuoLingo will help you with this, shown on the right.
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Here are some examples of habit statements. Feel free to copy or modify it to make it work for you. Note that every habit has an anchor, a simple step, and a way to celebrate and record the habit.
Habits take time to develop, so make sure to keep them small and simple! For example, it’s best to set a goal of one push-up. Many days you’ll feel good and do more, but when you’re especially tired, you can at least do your own thing without breaking the chain and feel successful.
You should also experiment with installers until you find what works for you. Use simple tools and reminders. For example, if my new habit is to “lie on the floor for a minute when the TV turns on,” it might be helpful to put a sticker on the remote to remind me.
Share your comments on habits and personal changes below. If you have
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