Kaizen – the pursuit for progress not perfection

Jason SayensmartPRENEUR Blog Series

Continuous improvement is a culture and a mindset.

In the organizations that I’ve worked for that embraced this mindset, we had quarterly meetings designed to discuss how we can become better at a specific goal that we set for the session.  These meetings are the polar opposite of what takes place in a quarterly sales meeting and are not a replacement.  The “Kaizen” workshops would take place off-site and typically last 4 to 5 days focusing on a set of goals that get set prior to the event.

What is Kaizen?

The Japanese word Kaizen means ‘change for better’

Kai – change, revision, and Zen – virtue, goodness 


Why would you host quarterly “Kaizen” sessions with your team?

If you want to create a culture and mindset of continuous improvement, you have to make the time to do the work.  An offsite location is ideal because it takes your employees out of their “work” environment which allows them to start thinking creatively.  This creates a safe zone for discussion along and brings your team together.

Kaizen meetings can be critical to your organization’s success by helping align your team, identify gaps in process and bring rapid change within your company.

What are the goals?

The biggest enemy in a company is waste.  It slows down production, creates bottlenecks in departments, and can ultimately lead to a poor client experience.  Your goal in these sessions is to identify an area of the business that needs work and as a group, strategize as to how to improve the process by identifying the waste that is creating the problem and removing it.

How do you get started?

When you are just starting out, you will assign someone to lead the sessions.  The session leader and your team will pick 4-6 areas of the business that they feel need improvement and then rank them in importance.  These will become the themes of your Kaizen sessions going forward.  

Each meeting has a 3 part structure

Pre-session Planning (Session Leader)

  • Select an offsite location that is distraction-free and that everyone agrees on.
  • Choose the right employees to attend
  • Create an agenda and share it ahead of the event
  • Have the proper tools available (whiteboard, projector, flip charts, etc).
  • Set goals for the end of each day
  • Discuss ground rules for the entire session

Session (4-5 days)

  • Review the goal(s) of the session
  • Discuss the current state of the problem
  • Make a list of all of the causes contributing to the problem defined.
  • Use “the 5 why’s” to get to the root cause of each problem
  • Brainstorm solutions to all of the problems given the root causes discovered.
  • Create process improvement structures to keep these root causes from surfacing again.
  • Agree on a plan of action when returning to the office

Post-session activities (Session Leader)

  • Create documentation with detailed changes and share it with the entire company.
  • Discuss progress during weekly meetings to create a feedback loop.

How do you make the changes stick? 

In Krav Maga we call this muscle memory.  The more we practice the exercise and receive feedback, the more we can continually improve.  If you’re hosting a Kaizen event, you’ve done the hard part.  Your employees engaged in a session to make improvements and these changes were designed and approved by them.  By meeting weekly to discuss what’s working and what’s not working, you can gauge if the change is helping and make adjustments before bad habits are created. 

About the Author

Jason Sayen

Jason Sayen is the Founder of I am Sayen and brings over 25 years to the custom installation channel.  I am Sayen, helps business owners understand their process through workflow documentation which aligns teams and removes bottlenecks.

Website:   http://iamsayen.com