Throughout my business career, I have devoted myself to process and process improvement. During my school days, I attended business management classes in which I studied different techniques—one being the Kaizen method from Japan. In this, there is a constant introduction of small incremental changes in a business process to improve quality and efficiency. Most people consider this to be a production facility method, but it is useful in the office environment as well. The keys to it are input from the workers and continuous review. This is not something businesses can do with a monthly meeting where results are reviewed by managers. There needs to be constant communication about what is working and not working. A work environment that has little trust between the workers and managers will not be successful in implementing Kaizen. When operating properly, employees take ownership of their work.
One of the biggest problems I have seen in the workplace is an inherent lack of trust by managers and their need to dictate without input from the people who are doing the work. It is difficult to make and implement improvements when managers don’t have total worker buy-in and ownership. On the positive side, I have also seen formerly dysfunctional departments go through total transformation when changing to more of a Kaizen-style approach. The key was putting in place a manager who had the confidence in both their own and their employees’ abilities to adopt and maintain this approach.