Do More with Less: The Kaizen Way

| September 16, 2010

With the recent economic downturn, we’re all hearing a steady cadence of “we need to do more with less” platitudes.  The words are presented to staffs and fall on them like lead balloons, spiraling morale into an abyss.  The words have no meaning, just more corporate gibberish for “say goodbye to some of your friends and colleagues and get ready to work even harder” . . . and for the same or less pay.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  We can do more with less if we have a plan – a strategy.  The challenge is most corporations are reeling from the financial markets and really don’t have a plan.  It is within the context of this reality that I offer the following advice to leaders who are looking to truly do more with less: Consider adopting a company-wide Kaizen mission.

What is Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that challenges the individual to make continuous improvement, no matter how small, in their daily life.  Translated to the corporate world, this is a powerful concept.  Imagine 200,000 – 20,000 – or even 200 people all dedicated to making at least one small improvement in their job, or to the company, every day.  That’s every person, every day.  The impact adds up quickly and could be tremendous. More importantly, morale can be maintained and improved as staffs no longer feel victimized by cut backs but empowered.

The change does not have to be awe inspiring; it just has to be an improvement that somehow translates to an increase in efficiency, no matter the scale.  For example, creating a file to help organize paperwork that’s been sitting on your desk to make it easier to find information. Or, creating an email distribution list to expedite addressing emails you frequently send to the same group of people. The opportunity is limitless.

Thinking Time

However, every sword has two edges. The cost of implementing Kaizen is not entirely free.  The executives and management teams will require some modest training. And, here’s the kicker, the staff has to be provided a small block of time every day to THINK. Continuous improvement cannot blossom in an environment where people are so rushed they don’t have 15-30 minutes a day to relax and review their world to identify improvement opportunities.  I bet I lost a good number of you here.

Convert your Busy Staff into Productive Teams

With the increasing velocity of change, the luxury of taking time for introspection can sound paradoxical. Yet, we have to realize there is a difference between being busy and being productive.  And, sometimes you have to slow down to speed up. In other words, invest 15-30 minutes in your staffs and they will deliver daily improvements that yield far greater return in productivity – they won’t just be busy, they will be productive . . . and, maybe even happy.

Kaizen for the Individual

Finally, Kaizen is equally powerful for the individual. In these times, many of us feel despondent, even helpless.  For us, Kaizen can also be a powerful tool to improve self-esteem.  We all sit around on New Year’s Eve and discuss our resolutions, which we almost immediately forget.  Kaizen is not about boiling the ocean in one great accomplishment; it is a simple daily regiment that allows us to slowly but steadily take life’s baby steps toward being the person we want to be.

What a wonderful concept!

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Category: General Strategy

About Marc LeShay: I am a strategic consultant helping people find clarity in chaos View author profile.

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