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Change requires a sustained process

Creating a KAIZEN culture requires a sustained process and consistent message. Although change may begin from top or bottom but it requires commitment from the entire workforce, each and every individual should be engaged. The whole journey of Transformation should be well managed so that whatever improvements happen are managed & sustained in a proper way. The entire focus should be on process & results. Process change without discipline may lead to degraded performance and results may surprise you by not being in line with what was being planned.  

Inconsistent Processes yield Inconsistent Results and therefore ignoring the process reduces the chances for desired results.


While Quality processes yield Quality results. Ignoring results hides long-term strategy and areas for improvement.


The Old Paradigm says “I don’t care how you do it, just get it done!’ while the New Paradigm says Focus on Process & Results, Apply PDCA  (plan do check act)/SDCA (standardize do check act)approach, and make problems & processes visible.

People work on Processes, Processes create Results, Results cannot be changed


Engage people & Improve processes to get improved results and once the processes are improved efforts should be made to sustain it. SDCA focuses on all Maintenance/Sustenance activities. 

What is SDCA?

SDCA is a methodology to sustain improvements by:

  • Standardize: Establish standards to be achieved
  • Do: Implement standards
  • Check: Verify the actual work with standards
  • Act:  Review and assess any variation in standard


“Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen.” – Taiichi Ohno

It is a refinement of the PDCA cycle aimed at stabilization of production processes prior to making attempts to improve.

Standardization process is a very important one that has few key features, presented below:

•    Represent the best, easiest, and safest way to do the job,

•    Offer the best way to preserve know-how and expertise,

•    Provide a way to measure performance,

•    Show the relationship between cause and effect,

•    Provide a basis for both maintenance and improvement,

•    Provide objectives and indicate training goals,

•    Provide a basis for training,

•    Create a basis for auditing or diagnosis, and

•    Provide a means for preventing recurrence of errors and minimizing variability.

Benefits of SDCA

  • Possibility of losses reduces.
  • Sustaining improvements becomes easier with SDCA.
  • Wastage of time reduced as standards are set for all activities, and there is a clear indication of what is to be done and how it is to be done.
  • Helps raise the bar for improvement standards.
  • Enable measurement of level of implementation of improvements and standards.
  • Helps to sustain lean gains and develop lean culture.

Clear objectives at all levels should be provided. Expectations should be made clear and people should be made accountable for results and this whole cycle should be supported by rewarding proper behaviour & results via public recognition, gits, etc.

“Change Thinking- Change Environment- Change Habits – Change Culture”

“We cannot hope to solve our most difficult problems with the same thinking that created them.” – Alber Einstein


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Paradigm Shift: How can we change a system or mindset?

I have been asked countless times by Lean change leaders, “How can we change a system that’s so rigid and entrenched?” Here is an allegorical and hopefully not too arcane answer from one of my reading from some blog:


Life (personal or professional) hinges upon paradigm shifts.  Moments that revolutionize our thought by seemingly inverting the planet on its axis. Such has been true of history. Such is true now. And so it shall be every year in our future. Nobody can deny this fact. We always reflect upon where we have been as a measure of knowing where we are going. Let’s be wise together now…

  • All of mankind once knew the earth was flat. Until they all knew it wasn’t.
  • It was fact that the sun orbited the earth. Until that fact was a lie.
  • Achieving flight in a man-made machine was impossible. Until it flew.
  • Walking on the moon? A fairytale; until that one small step for man.

These epic case studies illustrate one point – life doesn’t advance smoothly or evenly from detail-to-detail, day-to-day. Life leaps from paradigm-shifting-moment to paradigm-shifting-moment, for e.g.: Kaikaku (radical change) on the gemba (shop floor) like Intercultural challenges, value stream maps, etc.  

  • Malcolm Gladwell classifies them as “Tipping Points.”
  • Tim Ferriss (in his new book) calls them “Harajuku Moments.”
  • Seth Godin labels them “Purple Cows.”

Each of these metaphors has its own flavour and I am attempting to showcase that achieving substantial impact is possible by changing if we change our mindset.

The condition of changing our mindsets holds, I think, for our purpose. So let this be our footing as we move forward into the journey of paradigm shift leading to transformation or achieving operational excellence goals. 

But how do you change a system or mindset? We may think it will take an avalanche, but really what’s needed is a gradual movement towards the goal by doing some improvement daily!!!

Employees have to learn to see:

  • The value stream
  • The flow value
  • or The value being pulled by the customer

The final form of seeing is to bring perfection (No picture of perfection can be perfect…here the word perfection denotes an ongoing process of improvement – steps towards perfection) into clear view so the objective of improvement is visible and real to the whole organization. However, the effort to envision the picture of perfection provides inspiration and direction essential to making progress along the path…

Organization or Employees who have never started or taken the path of Paradigm shift because of lack of inspiration or vision obviously have failed or the growth has become stagnant over a period of time. 

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Operational Excellence in Banking

Looking at the given market conditions and opportunities, leading banks are focused on improving key processes, especially those that provide opportunity to increase productivity and attract new customers on board. Banking industry is facing increased competition, accelerating regulatory challenges and global financial pressures. Retail banks are struggling to sustain their revenue models, manage shrinking credit margins, and deal with customers that no longer trust financial institutions due to rise in mis-selling.

Looking at this even retails banks wants to maximize the resources they have by operating as efficiently as possible by eliminating wastes. They have understood the thriving need to improve the processes linked with their day to day life i.e. opening accounts, processing a loan application, providing statement, etc. It has been observed that most of the banks processes are not effectively linked to existing systems resulting in service inefficiencies and lost business opportunities. Retail banks rely heavily on business processes to provide the core services that customers expect and therefore it is important that people, processes and the data work together and are aligned properly to execute those processes. If this is taken care of retail banks can deliver improved client management with better quality, reduced costs and on time delivery.



Many bankers think that their field is too specialized to benefit from the methods of Kaizen/Lean/Operational excellence.


  • Previous improvement initiatives had limited success and were not sustained
  • Employees were sceptical about process improvement initiatives and thought that it would quickly loose favour
  • Helping leadership team change culture and lead transformation


  • Training: Train and make employees aware with continuous improvement principles and tools
  • Make changes that would directly impact working environments
  • Implement tools to engage employees at all level in the success of the business
  • Implement Kaizen to target specific areas of operational improvement resulting in more efficient and effective workflows by eliminating wastes.


  • Customer Service can uncover several improvements.
  • Improved processes and reporting structures
  • Eliminate repetitive work by eliminating muda (waste), mura (variation) and muri (strain)

Kaizen or Continuous process improvement (CPI) can help banking industry to enhance their core competitiveness. It can guide and help banks to think comprehensively and improve process effectively. And apart from this its imperative for banks to apply Kaizen as quickly as possible to be a survivor in the financial service industry.

Sensei Masaaki Imai,  author of the classic books Kaizen: The Key To Japan’s Competitive Success and Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management, says that the true meaning of KAIZEN is to involve everyone everywhere in making improvements every day.

Click here to read featured interview of Paul Cobban, DBS Bank, Singapore.

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Kaikaku: Break the existing paradigm

Kaikaku: Break the existing paradigm

Global environment is changing, businesses and manufacturers are under constant pressure to improve upon its Quality of products, reduce Cost of manufacturing goods or services, and Deliver on time. Therefore it is very important for them to take every opportunity to improve process and reduce the cost to be competitive. But question that comes to their minds is How will they know whether they are running or employing best practices?


Most of the organizations do not have honest metrics to be objective and think differently. By introducing Kaikaku (Radical Change) method organization can attack stagnation on the gemba (shop floor). Kai means Change and Kaku mean Radical. Unlike Kaizen, which is change for better or continuous improvement, Kaikaku means radical change – it can be in the existing paradigm or system or processes. Although there are many ways to bring change within an organization kaikaku can be one amongst them. Many organizations think that by appointing or hiring a Kaizen or a Lean champion they can bring change or improve the current state but they forget to understand the ground reality on the gemba. What is important is to break the existing paradigm and to do this the top management has to understand the plight of manufacturing from a gemba point of view. They will have to listen, observe and understand core issues on the gemba. It has also been observed that many organizations find themselves fighting  fires within the organization which restricts them looking at the root cause of the real problem and therefore root cause issues are not solved or understood including at top management level. Management has to work on changing the overall culture of the organization which is impacted by Physical environment, Process/SOP, Measurements and respect for people (no blame culture). They need to think that how they can excel in this fast paced world? Employees have to trained on systematic global best practice and it has to be implemented and linked to goals of improvement.

Kaikaku or Kaizen cannot be done in Conference rooms or meeting rooms! The only rule to bring radical change is by going to gemba because that is place where they can meet Real People, get Real Data, observe and understand Real Situation, find Real Solution and in a real hurry.

So by now it must have got clear that “Kaizen” is an evolutionary and incremental approach to improvement, on a regular basis, while Kaikaku in nature, is compact, concentrated and revolutionary! The real value of both can be made clear if they are implemented. Apart from that one can also claim the knowledge about the theory & application, when one sees it in action. Kaizen Kaikaku tours offers the best way to learn about the theory & application by visiting world class companies. This tour affords a “behind the scenes” view into the production and service segments of the facilities, providing a look at current trends in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.

Organizations do make slight changes as time progresses but rarely make radical changes unless forced to by competition or radical changes in technology, or something like Gemba Kaizen comes along.

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Respect for people : Key to sustained business success

Respect, or rather lack of it, seems to be an ongoing concern in many workplaces. But how hard is it for leaders to cultivate it and keep it alive in workplaces? Many organizations Codes of conduct implore people to treat others respectfully – but do they really do so? Most of them fall short on it.

Since Toyota first formally published its “respect for people” (RFP) principle in a 2001 internal document, there’s been a lot of talk about this in the Kaizen/Lean/Operational Excellence community.


Respect for people is a cornerstone of KAIZEN otherwise known as Continuous Improvement philosophy.  Kaizen is often misunderstood and applied incorrectly, resulting in bad outcomes including, for example, layoffs. Layoffs are not the intent of kaizen. Instead, kaizen must be practiced in tandem with the “Respect for People” principle. Without “Respect for People,” there can be no continuous improvement. Instead, the usual result is one-time gains that quickly fade.

Importantly, kaizen must operate with three principles in place: process and results (not results-only); systemic thinking (i.e. big picture, not solely the narrow view); and non-judgmental, non-blaming (because blaming is wasteful).

The “Respect for People” principle is also one of two pillars of The Toyota Way; the other is “Continuous Improvement.” The “Respect for People” principle has existed for several decades within Toyota’s management system, but has been almost entirely ignored by outsiders.  Practicing only the “Continuous Improvement” principle may lead to many problems. Foremost among them is “management’s desire to improve efficiency and productivity usually results in layoffs, which slows down or halts improvement efforts.” This happens when only the “Continuous Improvement” principle is practiced. Therefore “Respect for People” (Cooperation) is the primary countermeasure for bungled continuous improvement (Betterment) efforts. That’s why it is a Toyota Way principle.

Most mid- and senior-level managers think that they know what “Respect for People” means, but they do not know because it is clear from their leadership behaviors, common business performance metrics, company policies, & management’s decisions. Such managers think that RFP means being fair, civilized or giving a patience hearing. Therefore it is very important to understand what RFP means as it helps the organization to survive & prosper in the longer run.

RFP can be elaborated as multilayered description that includes two words “RESPECT” and “TEAMWORK”.  Respect means respect & understand others and others opinion and Teamwork means to focus on individual and team performance and share the opportunities of developments. These words may not define or constitute the whole meaning of RFP but may give some insight on what RFP should be.  RFP can only be understood through daily thinking and practice on the job.  

Sensei Masaaki Imai recounts Ohnos view:

I’ve read that when there were problems, he didn’t blame the workers, he blamed the processes.

Yes. It is not the workers you blame, it is the management.”


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KAIZEN: Small changes v/s Big Projects

Be it personal life or professional – I have always wondered why people resist change/parivartan/transformation. The behaviour of people (and other organisms or even mechanisms) falls within a range with some behaviour being common, some unusual, some acceptable, and some outside acceptable limits. Human behaviour is greatly influenced by the attitudes we use on a daily basis. 



image source & acknowledgement : http://www.appetiteforchange.net

Change is uncomfortable and requires new ways of thinking and doing. People have trouble developing a vision of what life will look like on the other side of a change. So, they tend to cling to the known rather than embrace the unknown. Change management is an approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state. Kaizen/Lean helps the organizations to achieve their operational excellence goals or the desired future state. KAIZEN refers to “small changes for the better” and equates to continuous improvement in English and is, first of all, a mindset and a commitment. The attitude is that we are never satisfied with the status quo, and believe that there are always a better way to do the job. KAIZEN can be a great way of overcoming this fear of change. KAIZEN focuses on small changes by everyone, everyday & everywhere and not big workshops or projects. People can absorb small changes everyday rather than one big change. Small daily changes become a habit and it helps to change the behaviour or the mindset of the people. It becomes a routine that is no longer threatening.

It is particularly important that top management adopt this mindset, and make the commitment, if they truly want to compete successfully at a global level. It does not matter what name you use – the pull production, logistics improvements, just-in-time production, lean, Toyota production system – these methods are readily available for companies to use. Yet 99% of all companies fail to fully implement it……KAIZEN has to be adopted as a corporate strategy, where everyone in the company is making improvements every day, so that the cumulative effect could be dramatic.

“Endless conversation about CHANGE is the barrier. Actually committing to doing something and then acting is what is required.” – by David Jakes

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The evolution towards JIDOKA

We have heard & talked a lot about KAIZEN and people involvement at level, to coach and empower them, develop leadership, etc. The benefits are that the operations become Faster, Better  & Cost efficient and People becomes Engaged, Problem Identifiers & Problem Solvers.  

All of these makes sense and is true but what is Jidoka? One term that goes along with Japanese manufacturing practices is jidoka.  The Toyota Production System is often modelled as having two pillars, with one of the pillars being JIT and the other jidoka.

So what is Jidoka & how does it help?



Jidoka (Autonomation) is a method in which, equipment are designed in such a manner that it can,  partially automate the manufacturing process as partial automation is typically much less expensive than full automation and to automatically stop when defects are detected.

The advantage of Jidoka is workers can monitor multiple work stations more frequently (reducing labor costs) and many quality issues can be detected immediately with the implementation of Jidoka. This way defects can be identified and caught early and workers don’t have to rely heavily on final inspection or testing. By catching defects early in the process, workers are closer to the actual process conditions that caused the defect and therefore closer to root cause. Workers can launch problem solving faster with a higher chance of getting to root cause since the process conditions wouldn’t have changed as much.

Therefore built-in quality is the essence of Jidoka. It is the true beginning of positive evolution. And it guarantees maximum product quality at all times.