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Identify Waste and Get Rid of It!

We’ve Embraced the Kaizen Management Concept and It Seems to Be Working

Do you feel lonely in your role running an integration business? Where do most of the suggestions and changes come from? If you’re like most businesses, changes usually come from the top, forced down through the organization with directives and strict instructions. The results are rarely what the giver and receiver of those orders intended.

What if your company ran on great ideas from everyone, with each person believing in their own ability to make small changes over time? Would you feel less lonely? Would you become closer with your employees and take advantage of the opportunity to praise hard work and passion? I’ve got good news for you. The Japanese started their march toward industrial domination after World War II with this idea in mind. They called it “Kaizen.” In essence, Kaizen (translated literally as “improvement”) orients around the idea of employees meeting weekly to identify waste and problem solve, making incremental changes over time.

We’ve embraced the Kaizen concept at Livewire leading us to our launch at an all hands meeting a few months ago where we showed this graphic:

I wanted our team to understand that top-down directives are tired and dead. Everyone can relate to Bill Lumbergh in the movie Office Space talking about TPS Report cover sheets. Ideas need to start in the crowd, incubate, and achieve success through a Wikipedia-esque deployment strategy. If you find yourself bottlenecking employee ideas with approvals or because you’re the only one who knows how to do a particular skill, let go of it and watch your employees soar.

If you’re used to having a hand in everything at your company, Kaizen is going to feel strange. Encourage your employees to make mistakes and fail. Mark Zuckerberg’s “Move Fast And Break Things” mandate to Facebook’s employees is one of my favorites.

We’re already seeing the benefits of Kaizen at Livewire. Now that employees understand their new mandate, we’re seeing small changes each week like modifications to our van stock process or how we handle incoming calls. What did I have to do with these changes? Nothing. Did I approve them? No. Am I in the loop? Sure. I love it and want to keep a loose handle on this new part of our culture.

If you’re really interested in watching Kaizen take off, try saying “Yes” more. Believe it or not, some companies have policies banning the use of the word “No.” It’s called “Yes, And!” and it goes hand in hand with Kaizen. You’re going to be tempted to shoot down proposed new ideas and changes because you tried it before and it didn’t work. Unless it’s going to bet the company or a key client relationship, let your employees fail a little bit. They’ll appreciate you having their back and it’ll build a ton of trust within your organization. Don’t take my word for it. Our new employee happiness score (it’s a 7 now, up from 5 two years ago) speaks volumes about how much trust we’ve built. We did it as a team and I purposefully removed myself from any place I could bottleneck the process. I also bit my tongue. A lot.

Are you up for a little Kaizen? Check out this site to learn more:

Stay frosty and see you in the field.