Musing

In this COVID-19 aftermath, We need Kaizen More than Ever

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Why not normalize Kaizen post-COVID-19, I ask?! And the answer is why not! Indulge me for a moment if you may because this really a no brainer, besides its not like Kaizen hasn’t been around. At this point, I really don’t think COVID-19 needs any explanations considering a simple “novel corona pandemic” google search returned “About 645,000,000 results (0.75 seconds)”. When I searched COVID-19 alone, it returned “About 4,800,000,000 results (0.74 seconds)”.

Therefore in light of that, I will make an informed guess that people are actually more informed about the Novel Corona disease, in general than a lot of other diseases that have been around longer.

COVID-19 didn’t just threaten our health worldwide but more so the very fabric on which finance and business operations rely. Businesses shut down or leveled down their staff and operations. Jobs have been lost and the economy seems to be in jeopardy as countries continue to impose strict lockdown measures.

This unfortunate situation has nonetheless seen a lot of companies go digital and partially or fully remote. Teams meet online via zoom and Google meets to mention but a few. Interaction, as we have known it in the past, is now 80% digital and 20% physical. This i believe, is were Kaizen comes into the picture. Not particularly a new concept, in fact, kaizen has always been around, lurking in the shadows waiting for a moment like this to resurface.

Simply put, Kaizen should be at the very foundation of how we conduct ourselves personally and professionally post the COVID-19 pandemic. For that matter, allow me to reflect on a few times and learning nuggets I’ve picked up trying to understand how going kaizen can improve management and bring about meaningful business growth.

In fact, to say the very least applying kaizen is more than ever important in today’s business environment than it ever was when the Toyota production system’s lean management philosophy first became famous. We are part of a business entity today that focuses on maximizing profits while taking one’s clients’ best interests at heart, valuing the needs and input of your employees while making sure your production process of delivering a product or service does not in any way put the environment at risk. While all this is happening, you are also making sure you don’t run short on resources as you constantly try to make decisions that keep stakeholders happy all the way.

Trust me, If you think stakeholders are complicated, try taking product development or delivery advice from your clients. You will quickly learn why product managers as one, Dave Wascha in his Youtube presentation video; 20 Years of Product Management in 25 Minutes by Dave Wascha jokes; “Listen to your client’s needs but don’t listen to your clients for product solutions advice, that’s your job.” Just so we clear, David Wascha is hilarious so please, if you are product manager or developer then you need to follow him.

Because of kaizen, we’ve seen management, business growth and project management to mention but a few take a big leap for the better over the years.

When you are 20 to 30 years old, you should follow a good boss [and] join a good company to learn how to do things properly,”-Jack Ma

Kaizen is a Japanese word referring to improvement or “change for better” as defined by Investopedia. Kaizen encompasses the philosophy of continuous incremental improvement of an activity. This works in kaizen events that operate at 5 levels starting with; “Individual, mini point kaizen, Kaizen blitz, flow kaizen, Supply chain kaizen.”.

Anyway, it’s my informed opinion that if businesses operated small both in infrastructure and human resources, there won’t be a lot of waste and thus more profit. But that doesn’t always work for some businesses so think hard before making adjustments.

While I’m not an expert on the subject but merely a disciplined student of the process, I have been chanced to work for some wonderful bosses, read up on some insightful material and take a few online courses here and there in management, Working in teams, product management and business to say, I know enough to share my thoughts.

This particular article is inspired by my most recent online course learning in a bid to stack-up technically, improve professionally and level up my management skills as far as the technology space is concerned during this COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown period when movement is limited, works routines are almost on a standstill and like most people out there found myself with more time on my hands than before.

lean production philosophy

Kaizen has become closely related to or is the Toyota Production System which champions the lean management philosophy; Philosophy, Process, People & Partners as well as Problem-solving.

Kaizen is part action plan and part philosophy. Consistent application of Kaizen as an action plan develops Kaizen as a philosophy. ref source: Leanproduction

Being an IT engineer with a technology-intensive background currently working as a developer.

I’m looking to become a full-time project manager and eventually be in charge of my own business, a technology product and also be responsible for mentoring other technologists. I found reading up on The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Lean management processes, Product & Project management books, as well as listening to The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman audiobook has been a great ice-breaker in what I consider a fruitful learning phase.

Some of the key takeaways as far as my endeavours on the matter went are;

Understanding the critical improvement concepts;

  • Value, Waste (mostly identified as that which increases cost without increasing value among other classifications), Variation( variations can cause waste if not properly identified, moderated and taken care of ), Complexity (mostly in form of size, volume, density, time to complete a product cycle all contribute to a certain level of complexity.) & lastly Continuous improvement.
  • Then there are the Goals and objects of the Toyota production system being; Top Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety and Morale.
  • We also have the PDSA Cycle, the kaizen continuous improvement tool which when described stands for Plan, Do, Study and Act. This focuses on a sure way to continuously grow as a person or business entity through a definitive and measurable process. I will write about the PDSA Cycle next.

is very important so make time to understand and master them.

There is always more to learn but this is a summary of what I quickly picked up while equipping myself during the Lockdown period. I probably have learned more during this period on Pluralsight and Udemy during this lockdown than using the time to be sad, self-pity and blame the system for being unfair.

Not all businesses can successfully structure around the kaizen way or lean management but it most certainly is an interesting thought to ponder over by business leaders and owners moving forward. Feel free to share your thoughts and extra insights or knowledge.

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