Kaizen and the 20 keys to workplace improvement (of Iwao Kobayashi): Real Examples

The 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement is popular with Kaizen teachings and the entire Agile community. “20 Keys to Workplace Improvement” is a book by Iwao Kobayashi who describes his views on the optimization of work and processes in production activities.

Many years later, the entire Agile industry shared this Kaizen teaching and cited the 20 keys to workplace improvement. Reference: Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization, www.vbprojects.org

The article lists all the original topics, but provides explanations for each topic and shares details and possible strategies for managers following Kaizen principles.

Before sharing the 20 keys of Iwao Kobayashi, I would like to start with the caveat that they are all extremely important for improving the work of the organization. Rather, we might think that starting with certain steps would make it easier for us to move on to improve the next ones.

Improving work and management is a process in which both managers and employees must be involved. The level of organizational culture in the company and the management of human resources play a crucial role in this process because the people in the company are the ones who make the changes for the better.

Table of Contents

Kaizen Key #1 – Teamwork. Focus on teamwork to involve everyone in enthusiastic improvements.

Focusing on teamwork is more about finding results that we try to improve than literally focusing on teamwork. Defining clearly what we are trying to achieve is paramount. Teamwork cannot exist on its own and outside of “something” that the team works for.

Once we identify what we are trying to improve, we can focus on working better as a team to achieve these goals, results. It is important to set a goal and understand how our team cooperates most effectively and to place employees in the roles that best suit them, for the success of those employees and the organization. Reference: 20 Agile Kaizen keys to workplace improvement, www.libraryofmu.org

When considering the goals, we must take into account all the business components that directly affect it. The teams and the way they work are important for the business goals of the organization. Awareness of the teams of their weaknesses is more important than the specific composition of their strengths. knowledge of strengths and weaknesses leads to higher engagement, which in turn affects results such as lower absences, higher efficiency, higher productivity.

Organizing teambuilding for teams to discover and name their strengths works in the direction of good teamwork. In this way, the team connects more effectively, avoids potential conflicts, strengthens group cohesion and creates a positive dialogue.

Already formed teams that have discovered their strengths should be encouraged to work towards improvement. We need to create conditions for daily short meetings of the teams to appreciate what has been done and what is to come. In addition to these short meetings, it is good for the teams to have a longer meeting once a month to discuss where we have been good and what we need to improve. All teams of the company must participate in this process, and the pace for each team is individual.

When focusing on teamwork, one of the difficulties that may stand in our way is the resistance of employees to participate in teamwork. In this case, it is important to be able to see the strengths of these employees and the reasons for their concerns, as well as to be able to find their rightful place in the team.

Another problem in concentrating on teamwork is the members who want to lead the team informally. In this case, leadership is not the focus and leadership, bringing to the forefront of our strengths, as well as working to achieve results. This must be clear and unambiguous at the outset.

It may seem to us that the strengths of the team are only in a certain direction, and other aspects of the work seem to be uncovered. Once we realize where we are strong, the weaknesses can be easily overcome once they have been identified – training, innovations, modernization.

Kaizen Key #2 – Management style with commitment and participation. Work with all people to engage their minds and hearts, both in the work and in their hands.

Engagement and participation management is a behavior in which the leader is highly focused on the work and at the same time does the best for the team he works with. Team managers can achieve this by explaining to people what the organizational goals are and involving employees in decisions related to the implementation of plans and the work that needs to be done.

Initially, the HR department will play a significant role in creating a management style with engagement and participation, working with team leaders to clarify what engagement and participation is. Subsequently, managers will apply management practices when working with their teams, which allow the entire team to participate and engage in decision-making and performance of tasks. These tasks should be applied in the work of senior management in working with middle managers. The more employees take part in decisions, the more motivated they will be to implement them. Motivated employees perform their tasks at the highest possible level and maintain an organizational culture. Reference: Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples, pm.mba

It is very important to have an adequate system for reporting and rewarding performance. When employees have performed as expected or even exceeded them, this should be noted and rewarded.

A potential problem with this step is the resistance of managers to share decision-making, and the willingness of employees to participate in decision-making. Organizational culture, a proper understanding of business goals, a good organizational environment and the realization that it is important to create a product that is effective, meets expectations, easy to learn, secure and adds value will help a lot in this direction. This could be achieved through frequent meetings of the teams with the managers and discussion of the product, the tasks and the work to be done, as well as the obstacles that we need to remove.

Good communication is important to address the problems of resistance from employees and managers and to overcome the fear of making wrong decisions. Ultimately, everyone must be convinced of the correctness and usefulness of this management style in order to apply and accept it.

Kaizen Key #3 – Zero monitoring. Build systems that avoid the need to monitor people constantly. Instead, create a team that works to maintain and improve your technology.

In order for the company to achieve zero monitoring, it must have motivated and self-organized teams that understand the business goals and understandings and expectations for the product. Reference: “The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples”, Stephen Jones (Agile Programming, ISSN 2652-5925)

Teams should have a sense of pride in what they have done, which is always better and more effective than the last. HR Engine in achieving this should be the management and HR department to work towards training and achieving a high organizational culture by implementing the following steps:

  • Acceptance and approval of diversity and difference in terms of individual culture, background and the like of workers.
  • Acceptance and proper treatment of the contribution of each employee to the company.
  • Pride and enthusiasm of every employee of the organization and the work he has done.
  • Equal opportunities for every employee to realize their potential.
  • Perfect communication and at a level between all employees regarding the policies and problems in the company.
  • Strong leadership with a strong sense of good governance, giving the necessary instructions and guidelines, as well as clarity about the goals and the results sought.
  • Ability to compete in innovation and customer service.
  • Lower than usual fluidity levels.
  • Investments in training, learning and knowledge for employees.
  • Vision and values ​​that the team shares. It is extremely important that the people on the team share the same values ​​as the company. The same is true with the vision – the path to achieving the gaps is shorter when the company and employees look in the same direction.
  • Shared responsibility and trust in the team by the leaders.

The autonomy of employees to make decisions on the one hand and maximum transparency on the other. Access to information increases employee engagement. Continuous feedback, giving and receiving feedback is a sign of a mature organizational culture.

Insufficient management commitment may be a problem in this step. Once on this path, we must make an effort and complete the endeavor. However, working in the direction of building a team working unsupervised, we must know that this involves constant effort and small steps.
On the other hand, we run the risk of encountering employees who accept the lack of monitoring as an opportunity to do nothing or less. For this purpose, daily short meetings are organized.

Kaizen Key #4 – Quick setup to new production.

The main role in this process will be played by the teams working on the projects. The faster we adjust to the new project, the faster we will work effectively on it.

The quick adjustment will be done through well and clearly written ranges and quality requirements.

Very important here is the role of those who care about poor communication – Product Owner, Scrum Master. Reference: w-europe.org Misunderstandings of the scope and quality requirements can be clarified at team meetings, as well as in emails and chats between the team and the Product Owner, Scrum Master.

Another obstacle to quick setup is the many and frequent requests to change the scope at the beginning of the project. this can be solved by slowing down the changes until the period of adaptation is over by improving the communication with the interested parties.

Rapid adaptation is very important for compliance with the time and budget framework of the project, which in turn is directly related to the success of the project. on the other hand, teams that are quick to adjust to the new accept change more easily and are more successful in their work on projects with many changes.

Kaizen Key #5 – Technology and competitive engineering. Understanding and using methods such as parallel engineering and Taguchi methods.

The planning, development, production, quality assurance, marketing, constructions, and developers departments must take part in this step. The principles of quality engineering must be properly understood and applied in a way that is appropriate for the company, on the product before its production, and during implementation.

Proper implementation will increase quality and reduce costs. Proper application of the method will allow the creation of a product insensitive to factors influencing the parameters, which factors cannot or are expensive to eliminate.

Great care must be taken when choosing the characteristics and quality indicators that will be ranked in order of importance and importance. To avoid mistakes, it is best for the user and the customer to suggest which ones are important to him. This is done by consulting consumers with a questionnaire and meeting with the customer to clarify the quality requirements.

It is also important to note that an obstacle may be that the application of the method requires a lot of time and intellectual resources, which makes it difficult for marketers. to avoid mistakes related to this problem, it is good to organize introductory training and to rely on software products to avoid computational errors.

Kaizen Key #6 – Employee support and training. Training employees to work at a higher level so that they can increase the value they add to the work.

All employees must be involved in the training process. In order to maintain the level of organizational culture, everyone must know that they have access to training.

The HR department must organize, together with the team leaders, an assessment of the types of training required and draw up a training schedule prioritized by the team leaders and in accordance with the work schedule of the teams. The training must be in accordance with the competencies of the employees and the direction in which they want to develop.

The potential problem is that training is ineffective. For this purpose, on the one hand, we must take into account both the needs of the company and the direction in which employees want to develop. On the other hand, we must strive to provide quality training.

Reluctance to learn is also a common problem. The company must show employees that training is important and valued and rewarded. The attractiveness of the training in terms of lecturer, topic, and location, and is also a way to deal with this problem. In order not to face this difficulty often, training should not take up the rest time and free time of employees.

Kaizen Key #7 – Planning. Time operations are planned to create a flow of high quality and affordable products.

It is good to involve team leaders, functional managers, the development team, the program director, and the production director in time planning. Reference: phron.org

The activities must be determined, after which the working time must be determined.

  • Defining the activities and tasks within the project.
  • Determining the main stages and their sequence.
  • Create a network diagram with the order and tasks.
  • Assess resources and identify those for each task.
  • Estimation of the time for completion of the tasks.
  • Development of work schedule and control.

Here the risk is not to follow the time schedule. For this purpose, the schedule is controlled through frequent meetings with the progress team and reports on the status of the project.

It is also important to control changes in scope. Frequent changes can lead to increased development time. Another risky point is the information that reaches the teams, people need to have exactly as much information as they need to do their part of the job no more and no less.

Care must be taken and with the betting of time for each stage, the teams must always be given an advance.

Kaizen Key #8 – Efficiency. Balancing financial problems with other areas that indirectly affect costs.

Both the finance department and the teams should be involved in identifying areas that indirectly affect costs. After identifying these areas should be considered in the direction of their optimization.

When optimizing and looking for efficiency, there is a real danger of going to extremes. To this end, decisions must be discussed and considered and carefully weighed before final decisions are taken.

Efficiency is extremely important for financial results. Calculations show that reducing costs in areas that indirectly affect spending by 1% can increase profits by about 8%. However, all the decisions we make must be based on research and well weighed. Working in the direction of organizational culture, eco-friendly thinking, improving communications, improving the corporate environment would also help in the direction of efficiency.

Kaizen Key #9 – Technology. Use and training of more complex technologies and adaptation of teams to them.

Before we decide to use more sophisticated technologies, it is necessary with the help of marketing, development and development teams what and what specific technologies we need, as well as the extent to which our employees are prepared for the new technologies.

Once we have identified the technologies that teams need to adapt to, we need to start training. With the help of HR and team leaders, we need to determine which teams and which members will be trained when.
All employees must be involved in the training process. In order to maintain the level of organizational culture, everyone must know that they have access to training.

The HR department must organize, together with the team leaders, an assessment of the types of training required and draw up a training schedule prioritized by the team leaders and in accordance with the work schedule of the teams. The training must be in accordance with the competencies of the employees and the direction in which they want to develop.

The potential problem is that training is ineffective. For this purpose, on the one hand, we must take into account both the needs of the company and the direction in which employees want to develop. On the other hand, we must strive to provide quality training.

Reluctance to learn is also a common problem. The company must show employees that training is important and valued and rewarded. The attractiveness of the training in terms of lecturer, topic and location, and is also a way to deal with this problem. In order not to face this difficulty often, training should not take up the rest time and free time of employees. Work in cross-function. Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change departments to gain experience in another field.

Kaizen Key #10 – Work in cross functions. Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change departments to gain experience in other areas.

It is good for all teams and departments to take part in this endeavor. HR draws up a schedule for everyone to work for some time in other teams and departments, taking into account this schedule with the work processes.

Here we can meet resistance from employees. It is important for them to understand the meaning of the endeavor, to know that it is not related to the amount of work they will do in the future and the responsibilities they will have. Teams need to be clear that the endeavor aims to increase understanding of the process to improve quality and efficiency. People need to be given time to prepare for change and to choose the right moment.

Kaizen Key #11 – Waste. Constantly identifying and eliminating things that either do not add value or even destroy it.

All departments should be involved in this process. Create a practice for teams to come together and assess where their strengths and weaknesses are, what helps and hinders them, what they really need and what they can part with. At these meetings, it is good to have a person outside the team, something like a mentor, a balancer to protect them from extremes and help them assess and identify the unnecessary.

There is a risk that teams will identify as waste something they do not want and not really unnecessary. There is also a risk that teams will not be able to see the unnecessary. Here is the role of the external actor to help avoid these risks. Such meetings should also be practiced by managers. Reference: Bpedia.org

Kaizen Key #12 – Defects. Defect management, including defective parts and connections.

Monitor, control, and manage your defects. Look for the causes and try to avoid them.

The quality assurance team has a key role in detecting defects, but all teams must take part in this process because defects can be detected and eliminated at an early stage by a developer or other employee, which works to improve efficiency. and processes in the organization.

There must be clear and precise quality standards that are understandable and familiar to all employees. The company must pursue a policy of early detection and elimination of defects.

Standards and a testing system need to be put in place that the quality assurance team is well aware of, should follow and be committed to continuous improvement.

We must always look for the causes of defects in order to correct them. We need to keep a diary of lessons learned, which will help us avoid re-admitting the same omissions.

Very often there is resistance to the diary with the lessons learned and its neglect by not understanding the benefits of it. Employees need to be helped to understand the benefits of it.

A good organizational culture and environment will help to overcome obstacles to achieving good results in this direction.

Kaizen Key #13 – Disciplined rhythmic work

All teams must take part and in order to achieve this step we must work in the following directions:

  • An organizational culture that provokes people to be proactive, to contribute to sharing, and to be aware of the business goals of the organization.
  • Organizational capabilities. Efforts must be divided, prioritized, and consistent.
  • Focus on efficiency, adaptability, and value delivery.
  • Clear definition of positions. Clear and precise rules.
  • The management shares authority and delegates powers, it is completely open for the purposes of the organization.
  • Maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.
  • Recognition and evaluation of excellent work, including in public.
  • More freedom at work.
  • Opportunity for professional development and training.
  • Employees are shown to have a positive impact on business.
  • Clear expectations. Effective communication.
  • Freedom of action and faith in the abilities of employees.
  • Giving and receiving timely feedback.

Insufficient management commitment may be a problem in this step. Once on this path, we must make an effort and complete the endeavor. However, working in this direction, we must know that this involves constant effort and small steps. We may also encounter resistance from employees.

Kaizen Key #14 – Reduced inventory and lead time. Dealing with overproduction and reducing costs and deadlines.

Reducing production time and fast delivery of the finished product, which reduces the need to have a lot of finished products to deliver.

Economies of scale – reduction of unit costs as a result of increased production. More frequently improved versions of the product ready for use.

Both increased skills and increased production may not lead to the desired results, increase defects and testing time, and hence costs. In the process, a balance must be sought through continuous feedback from both teams and stakeholders.

Kaizen Key #15 – Continuous improvement of the workplace. Creating improvement as a way of life, continuous improvement of work and a better workplace.

This can be related to work in the direction of improving the material base, as well as work in the direction of improving the company environment. In addition to new equipment, places to rest and non-standard places to work, we can think of policies and practices that will improve the atmosphere of cooperation and common purpose. There is always a risk that these steps will stress people who do not like change, so improvements, at least in the beginning if they were not a regular practice, should be smooth.

Kaizen Key #16 – Support. Maintaining machines from people who work with them, not from outside specialists. This allows for constant adjustment and minimal downtime.

Take steps to make everyone know how the systems they work with work and how they can maintain them themselves.

There may be people who cannot handle this task due to its complexity or it can take a long time. We need to provide support and assistance when needed and employees are aware that this is not a problem and does not bring them negatives. The individual approach is very important here.

Kaizen Key #17 – Creating interconnected cells where flow and withdrawal are the main agenda.

With the help of all teams, tasks must be properly prioritized and schedules created. A daily schedule for stand-up meetings to address the questions – what I did yesterday, what I will do today, what hinders my work.

A problem here may be the prioritization of tasks. For this purpose, it is done with the participation of everyone in the team. It is very important to be aware of and follow the order and not to create unnecessary obstacles. Involving everyone in prioritization will help in this direction.

Kaizen Key #18 – Partnership between suppliers. Work with suppliers, making them part of an ever-improving chain instead of struggling with them.

The department responsible for supply must build and maintain good and long-term partnerships with suppliers. You should always choose the right one over the cheap supplier. A fair and long-term relationship always brings profit. There is always a danger that a supplier will hand us over with deadlines, but if we have a well-established network of suppliers and partnerships with a wide range of such, we will easily find a solution.

Kaizen Key #19 – Preservation. Saving resources to avoid waste, both for the company and for society and the environment.

All employees at the helm of the management can work in this direction by taking the following steps:

  1. Separate waste collection.
  2. Involvement in eco-causes, e.g. Cuvioe caps, not necessarily this one has others.
  3. Use of reusable containers as well as materials.
  4. Using cheaper but practical tools

The risk is always skepticism, but it can be overcome in many ways. At the moment, the topic of environmental protection is very relevant and we can easily find many followers to engage others. There is a problem with finding materials that are recycled, as well as with who to recycle them, but with good research, this can be solved. We can encourage employees with small eco bonuses for those who come to work by bike, use reusable dishes, use the subway and more.

Kaizen Key #20 – Clean and tidy.

All employees to be involved in initiatives:

At the end of the working day, there should be nothing on the desk, and during the work, there should be only the current work. Dispose of garbage in the trash on a working day.

Coffee and food only in the designated place and not at work.

Clean the interior and exterior of the office every week.

There is a risk of wasting work time, but with proper planning and maintaining a clean environment, wasting time will not be fatal. There will always be employees who will not want to get involved. They need to be convinced of the parvism of the idea in order to practice it.