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Creativity and Innovation through Employee involvement

Employee involvement/participation in (1) deciding how their work is done, (2) making suggestions for improvement, (3) goal setting, (4) planning, and (5) monitoring of their performance. Encouragement to employee involvement is based on the thinking that people involved in a process know it best, and on the observation that involved employees are more motivated to improve their performance.

Employee involvement is crucial in improvement processes. Many organizations has specifically started focusing on employee involvement in improvement processes, teaching employees how to use a methodology to identify opportunities and eliminate waste in the work.

5 necessary components for change


Motivation for change

Motivation is the sum of all considerations that influence our decisions.

What makes managers & employees take action ?

– meaningful tasks
– recognition, payment
– having fun at work

What makes top-managers act?

– success
– influence
– ambition
– power
– best enterprise
– Manager of the Year

What makes middle-managers act?

– success
– good work climate
– responsibility for certain areas
– fulfillment of tasks such as
  – number of pieces
  – quality
  – just in time

What makes skilled workers act?

– success
– “a skilled worker’s sense of honour”
– pride of knowledge
– pride of experience
– chance for further training
– challenge of tricky problems

What makes auxiliary workers act?

– success
– feasible tasks
– certain routine
– continuity
– simple, easy working method
– chance for further training

Self Discipline

Standards are written to maintain the improvements we made when cleaning and checking. What happens if we don’t respect the standards we have developed?

Form the habit of doing what is decided as you are instructed:

1) Everyone makes a rule.
2) The rule must be understandable to anyone with a single glance.
3) Give an instruction when you find that the rule is not properly observed.
4) Do what is instructed immediately.

Implementing self-discipline at Gemba

Implementing Self Discipline in the work area :

1) Always follow Standard Operating Procedure – SOP.
2) Check your Machines, Fork Lifts, Trollies etc. and make sure they are always in good working condition.
3) Set a regular maintenance schedule and conduct an overall inspection – for earlier identification of failures and required servicing.

ImageVisual management of team goals, measures and achievements





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Total Change Management (TCM): Become an adaptive Leader

Change is an inevitable part of existence for individuals as well as for organizations. It is a prevailing factor faced by leaders in this dynamic business environment. TCM deals with “How To” change company systems and culture, engaging teams at all levels in Kaizen projects and activities; it is the organizational side of the KMS: how to implement a Kaizen Strategy. TCM Vision should be everyday, everybody and everywhere Kaizen. TCM promotes a continuous Change of Gembas and Minds.

The TCM – Total Change Management model consists of 3 pillars:

• Effective Teamwork
• Direction and Control
• KAIZEN Leadership.


Effective Teamwork

There are 3 types of KAIZEN Challenges in any Corporation, Company or Collective Organization: Maintain Muda out of Gemba, Eliminate Muda from Gemba and Design Value into Gemba.
4 types of KAIZEN Team need to be developed to tackle these challenges and to start improving the organization.

These teams are:

– Daily KAIZEN “Activities”;
– Gemba KAIZEN “Workshops”;
– Value Stream “Projects”;
– KAIZEN Strategy “Model”.

To quickly assess the effectiveness of KAIZEN/Lean in any organization, just answer these simple questions:

– How many teams of each type have been utilized in the past 12 months?
– What is the plan for the next 12 months?

Many companies are very unbalanced in their use of these 4 types of teams. The outcome being a lack of commitment and sustainability, and poor results in the long term.

Direction and Control

KAIZEN Teams need to have a Direction (targets and a plan to achieve them). They also need “Performance Management” in order to “Check” and “Act” in terms of Results (targets achievement). Direction and Control is the TCM Pillar which encompasses all matters relating to Audits, KAIZEN Support, Strategy Deployment and Reporting (or Performance Management); Another important feature of Direction and Control is the KAIZEN Assessments. Audits and Assessments are required to teach and provide feedback on implementation.
There are many assessments relevant to the KMS (KAIZEN Management System) as a whole or to specific tools like 5S.

KAIZEN Leadership

KAIZEN Leadership aims to develop Self Motivation of Individuals in the company. Self Motivation can be defined as the knowledge, beliefs and willingness necessary to understand and contribute to the KAIZEN Management System. It includes Awareness training, Coach training, Management Leadership training and KAIZEN College training.
In fact KAIZEN Leadership promotes self study and self development, resulting in individuals being more open minded and capable of applying KAIZEN on a daily basis.


KAIZEN is a process of managing change to produce a Lean result. To achieve this many “soft skills” need to be implemented during the course of the change program. TCM is the solution to developing a successful KAIZEN Lean Strategy.

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Kaizen Teian: The bottom up approach for productivity improvement

In the era of globalization the organizations competitive advantage is determined by the quality of their products which is directly correlated with the employees knowledge, attitude, and commitment at all the levels of the organization. As you know the creative ability is present in everyone, needing only to be developed through some system.

Kaizen Teian means 改善 (Kaizen): improvement and 提案  (Teian): proposal . Kaizen Teian is used for developing systems for Continuous Improvement Through Employee Suggestions or proposals. This Japanese-style proposal system for continuous improvement — is the most direct and effective method for channeling employees’ creative energies and hands-on insight.

Kaizen Teian cycle


The core value of Kaizen teian stresses on active involvement from all employees. From CEOs to front line workers, each member’s role in facilitating change and growth is necessary. But what is the difference between the Western and Japanese suggestion system?  The answer is quite simple. It is a different motivation for participation. The poster of a Western and a Japanese company is a good illustration of the difference:

For E.g. Poster of Western company says “Cash For Your Idea” while the Poster of Japanese company says “Let us improve the way we work”

In Kaizen Teian system the financial aspect is not to be highlighted while in Suggestion System where there is a reward per suggestion, a business like transaction takes place between the company and employee who comes up with a suggestion. The Kaizen Teian system is created to promote participation from as many employees as possible. It has much higher participation than classic suggestion systems. In case of Kaizen Teian system most proposals are used, receive some kind of evaluation and will be rewarded with some kind of bonus. Even small proposal and ideas are welcomed and carefully collected, because even small proposal are considered to have educational values. On the other side Western suggestions systems are designed to promote excellent, big result ideas, which are rewarded accordingly. These being stricter as compared to Kaizen Teian results in rejecting proposal as unsuitable after evaluation and employees often feel frustrated by the system and often do not bother to come up with suggestions at all. So the major drawback of Suggestion System is that such a system consumes time, and such a leisurely approach is no longer practical. What is required in this competitive era is promptness i.e. quick decision, judgment and implementation. And for this reason the focus has shifted to Kaizen Teian.

The following Table clearly presents the differences between Kaizen-Teian systems and Western type suggestions systems:


Image Source: http://www.michailolidis.gr

Successful organizations are those that are able to able to maintain a balance between the element of standardization and the innovative forces represented by innovation and Kaizen. Innovations do bring about remarkable results but requires large investment/capital while on the other side Kaizen or Continuous improvement represents an incremental, ongoing process. Kaizen Teian is one of the tools that can be used for doing continuous improvement on daily basis. It is something that everyone can participate in as people from top to bottom gets involved in it. And when people at all levels start doing Kaizen Teian a powerful force is set in motion. And this is why Kaizen has become one of the most powerful tools to achieve operational excellence or business excellence. While all the areas or departments will be open for suggestions the primary focus can be on Productivity & Quality, Product Design, Flow (Information or Material) and Admin.

What needs to be done is to motivate people at all level to participate, write suggestions/proposals, implement, review/audit the same and award or give commendations. It this is done successful the Kaizen Teian will run smoothly and one idea will lead to another one and so on.

Benefits of implementing Kaizen Teian

  1. Improves profit
  2. Improves customer satisfaction
  3. Discovers hidden talents
  4. Promotes self-development
  5. Improves the motivation and morale of employees at each level
  6. Enhances communication between top bottom level
  7. Helps to build and improve team work
  8. Creates ownership and trust within each other
  9. Engages and empowers employees at all levels
  10. And improves the overall work environment

The overall aim is to gather, analyze and implement ideas in order to create results that have a positive impact on the business and/or deliver new value to customers. The only point that needs to be kept in mind before implementing Kaizen Teian is that the suggestions/proposals should not be related to company policies, compensation/benefits, complaints/criticism, & disputes or grievances.

To conclude Kaizen Teian is a system or a formalized mechanism that encourages employees to contribute constructive ideas for improving the organization in which they work.

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Standardization or Standardisation is the process of developing and implementing standards but then what is standards? Standard is the best, safest and easiest way, to achieve and maintain a defined quality level.


Remember STANDARDs should be:

  • Simple and clear
  • Best, easiest, safest way – – – – – – – > should only have one at a time
  • Way to preserve current know – how
  • Guide-lines that enable performance measurement of delegated tasks
  • Ways to assure Quality, Cost, Delivery and Safety
  • Able to show relationship between cause and effect
  • Basis for management (maintenance and improvement of standard)
  • Basis for training
  • Basis for audit or diagnosis
  • Way to prevent recurrence of problems and control variability

SDCA Cycle

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

ImageStandardized work is one of the most powerful but least used KAIZEN/Lean tool. If current best practices are documented, standardized work forms the baseline for kaizen (continuous improvement). Once the standard is formed it is further improved and helps to form new standard and so on. Improving standardized work is a never-ending process therefore.

Standards can help organizations to reduce time, effort and money. It can help to assess the processes, allowing organizations to take steps to increase efficiency and become more profitable. It can help to provide a reliable benchmark against which performance can be judged. standardization provides a solid foundation upon which to develop new technologies and to enhance existing practices. Specifically standards helps to:

  • Open up market access
  • Provide economies of scale
  • Encourage innovation
  • Increase awareness of developments and initiatives

Where there are no standard there won’t be standardized work and organizations may suffer or experience below given problems:

  • Products/services might not work as per the expectation
  • The quality of product or service may be inferior
  • Products/services may not even connect with the customers requirement
  • Non-standardized products/services may be dangerous in the customers or society as a whole
  • Customers would be restricted to one manufacturer or supplier
  • Limited opportunity to compete with others and therefore grow in the market

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Lean Manufacturing: Exceeding goals & expectations

“I don’t care how you are going to do it, just make sure that the order is delivered on time”


“I don’t care what you do, just make sure that the target is achieved & the customer is happy”

These are the common statements that we listen on gemba (shop floor or real place where goods are manufactured or service is delivered). Things are becoming more and more difficult in manufacturing or service environment. Managers are under deep stress & finding better ways to do their job.

On the other side of the coin there are professional people working with organizations where the process, procedures are well defined and employees work as a team & March together toward one goal/ vision. Such organization always looks for continual improvement and tries to seek perfection in whatever they do. Customer service performance up from 63% to 97%… on time deliveries up from 76% to 96%…inventory turnover up from 1.6 to 6.7…company growth up from an annual rate of 16% to 65%… and most important, after tax profits up from 3% to 17% are few examples of their success stories. All these gains are impressive but none was more welcomed than the dramatic change in the day-to-day operating environment or the processes to a sense of excitement.

Leaders of such organization are able to deliver such impressive results because they have embraced LEAN MANUFACTURING or KAIZEN and pulled together a team of people that eventually became self-directed & achieved the results far greater than what was originally achieved by close competitors.

Each and every company can make such a difference by implementing lean manufacturing practices. But, the question is – what is lean manufacturing? How to implement? Where to implement? And so on……. 

What is Lean Manufacturing?

“Lean,” is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, “value” is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

It is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) (hence the term Toyotism is also prevalent) and identified as “Lean” only in the 1990s.


Source: Strategos, Inc.

How does Lean Manufacturing work?

Lean Manufacturing works mainly by focusing on reducing cost by improving manpower productivity, decreasing inventories, reducing manufacturing order to shipment cycle time, and by increasing capacities without substantial capital inputs. 

It also helps firms produce more with the same resources. This is made possible by eliminating non-value added activities, by applying simple techniques to identify/ eliminate waste and streamline systems, by focusing on improving the entire process flow and by emphasizing worker empowerment throughout [“Decent Work”].

Given below are indicative generic steps suggested by Masaaki Imai. In reality, every organization is unique & will need to customize its’ own roadmap. It is, however, highly desirable to seek the guidance of an experienced sensei in this journey so that the speed of implementation is accelerated & chances of failure are minimized.

Masaaki Imai’s Roadmap to World-class

ImageKaizen Institute’s model for Lean Implementation

It consists of 4 modules:

I.  Ensure Basic Reliability (Stability)

Preparing a relatively stable work environment is necessary in order to get any real improvement. Stability is sought in all the four resources (M’s) of manufacturing viz. men, material, machine & methods. Unless input is stable, output cannot be stabilized. Typically, the following tools help in the stabilization phase:

Five S, Autonomous & Planned Maintenance, Standardized Work


II. Create Flow in Production
III. Create Flow in Internal Logistics
IV. Extend Flow into the inbound & outbound Supply Chain

The set of tools that are typically used in implementing modules II to IV are shown in the model above.

Continually improve

A continual improvement (kaizen) mindset is essential to reach organizational goals. The term “continual improvement” applies to products, processes, or services over time, with the goal of reducing waste to improve safety, quality and delivery & simultaneously reduce costs.

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Employee Excellence for Operational Excellence

What sets Toyota apart from other excellent manufacturers? It is not that Toyota has the best Operational Excellence model in the world (the Toyota Production System). What sets them apart is that it has a tradition of Educating People.

At Toyota there is an education program for people that starts at year one and includes not only the job-specific knowledge and skills but what it means to think like a Toyota person. This not only includes kaizen, but the philosophy behind how you make improvements (quick and dirty instead of delayed perfection, etc.)


The Toyota way provides an in-depth case study of one company’s pursuit of operational excellence through continuous improvement and how it turned that pursuit into a strategic differentiator. From the senior executives to small groups of team members on the shop floor, there is a feeling of intense energy focused on getting better. The 4P model given below is an integrated system of philosophy, processes, people and problem solving.  


The philosophy is the foundation: “Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, event at the expense of short-term financial goals.” The most striking thing about Toyota is the consistency of values and the sense of mission up and down across the company. The external focus is consistently on adding value to customers and society. The internal focus is on developing exceptional people and continually challenging them to push the boundaries of their abilities.  

How does Employee element sabotage excellence?

  1. Lack of skills
  2. De-motivation – poor infrastructure, unfair compensation
  3. Unclear goals and  targets
  4. Lack of transparency
  5. Lack of belongingness
  6. Lack of stability
  7. Poor/inconsistent culture
  8. Ignoring the people aspect – “our processes are people independent”
  9. Locked knowledge and skills
  10. Unclear roles and responsibilities 

If more organizations start educating their people in the basic philosophy of Kaizen/Lean and TPS (never mind the specific tools) they would have people who see the vast improvement opportunities or “buried treasure” in every gemba. Educating people in the workplace as part of an operational excellence strategy is more than teaching the production system or the techniques to make improvements.  Employees are the biggest assets and its employees who can help to achieve operational excellence goals.