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Continuous Improvement: 10 Ways to Keep the Kaizen Drive Alive in the New Year!

10 Steps to Drive Kaizen in the New YearSo you just closed out last year. As the Kaizen Leader in your facility, I’m sure you’ve already taken some time to reflect on the accomplishments your team had over the past 12 months, right? At some point in the coming weeks, you’re likely to have to present your results of last year to upper management, and hopefully you can show some big gains in productivity and efficiency. That is, after all, what kaizen is all about – improving the bottom line. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you take a few moments to review the kaizen events and other Lean projects from last year.

Ask yourself these two questions: “Did I do my part last year?” and “What can I do better this year?”

Answering these two questions honestly can really help you identify areas for improvement in the new year. Reflect on those things that made your events successful but also on the things that didn’t work, and improve upon them.

As the new year begins, some companies find it hard to keep the continuous improvement (CI) ball rolling and end up curbing new events until further into the year. The reasons are unclear why this happens in every case, but I believe some are due partly because of the holiday season downtime, vacations, or the overall strength of the continuous improvement program. Unfortunately, the focus of the business may be shifted to other areas in that first quarter.


In any case, businesses should strive to put together a list of resolutions and include continuous improvement as a big part of that list. By keeping the focus on CI from upper management, the visibility alone can help drive it for early gains. Even outside the CI world, business in general can benefit from such a list.

Of interest – CarolRoth.com has put together an informative (and very large at 58!) listing of business-related resolutions from their contributor network of business owners, advisers and entrepreneurs to share their own resolutions for 2013, here: http://www.carolroth.com/blog/2013-business-related-new-years-resolutions/  Though not tied directly to continuous improvement initiatives, any of these resolutions like #1 –‘ Make It All Count’ for instance can be directly related to Waste; or #5 – ‘What is Your Passion?’ can easily be classified as CI.

Coupled with that huge list of 58 items above, and if you’re having some trouble getting your kaizen program up and running early in the new year, here is a list of 10 ways to help you keep that kaizen drive alive!

  1. Get off to a fast start! Don’t wait for your boss or others to start making suggestions. Likely, you already have a list of potential incomplete kaizen events floating around somewhere. Break out that list and get cracking! Set one up, put together a team, send out the invites, start the research, and complete your first event of the new year in grand fashion – with your first big win this year… in January!
  2. Make a list of what did and did not work last year. We all know that not every project goes as planned. In fact, most don’t. It’s what you do with what you learned that counts. As you set up future events, have that list handy so you can focus on the things that worked well for you, and you can steer clear of the things that did not go so well.
  3. Update the schedule. Pull out your schedule from last year and set it up at least through the first quarter of this year. Start populating it with open projects/events and start assigning team members. This will help show and support the never-ending cycle of and dedication to continuous improvement by carrying over left-overs from other points in time.
  4. Get more people interested in kaizen and continuous improvement. If your company is one of the lucky ones that hired on more personnel last year, you may have an opportunity to hold new training classes. Even without new employees, there is always a need for refresher training. Every opportunity to help spread the joy that is Lean and Kaizen should be exploited!
  5. Update and standardize your templates! How many times have you started prep work on a kaizen event and found you are wishing you had revised or updated some of those old templates you use? Maybe you have some old manual templates that you were putting off remaking into an excel format. Try some of ours to help you out, here………… (TEMPLATES)
  6. Learn more! With the exception of a few people in the industry, you might need a little more training yourself. Go back through some of the kaizen terminology, definitions, and presentations to keep up to speed on what everything means. Maybe even pull out that old ‘go-to’ book you’ve always used for guidance and re-read a few chapters. Or maybe look for a new book you haven’t read yet. Check out these books, here………….. (STORE)
  7. Set more aggressive targets for this year. Last year was good. You made some big gains; management and the people are happy with the results; things are running better than before; and this year, it’s time to go bigger! Wait! What? Yep. Go bigger. But why, you ask? Because now you have momentum… and you definitely want to capitalize on that. People are in the continuous improvement state of mind so there is no better time to identify a few stretch targets that will challenge the status quo.
  8. Perform some impromptu and unscheduled waste walks or 6S inspections. Another good way to keep people on their toes is to show that you and others on your continuous improvement teams are just as focused and diligent this year as in year’s past. Break from the normal schedules that people memorized last year and mix it up a little.
  9. Revamp a department tool and gear it for kaizen. Sometimes, many of the tools used in other departments like HR, Accounting, Engineering, etc. do not follow a true lean path and they may carry a lot of waste in their processes. Pick a tool like the suggestion program, the 5S program, or the rewards program and give it that overhaul it so desperately needs.
  10. Spread the word and ask for feedback. Keep people informed of all these successes. Let them know what is working and what is not, and obtain feedback from as many people as possible about how well the program is running. With this different perspective on how well the CI program is running, you may learn more about your company, and about you as well.

No matter what you have in store for your business this year, remember this: All your continuous improvement program needs to be successful is that one person willing to lead it. As that one person spreads the word, success will certainly follow. Good luck!

From the REALKaizen staff

In Category: Continuous Improvement, Kaizen, Kaizen event

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