Being flexible and open to change is just one of the foundational business principles you need to know. In this article, we look at the Kaizen principles (so what is Kaizen?!) and explain how to implement Kaizen principles into your business.
Business success, regardless of the industry, is all about being able to change and adapt. After all, the world and market are constantly changing, so businesses must too.
With this in mind, it’s clear why some of the most successful businesses have adopted the 12 Kaizen principles for change.
In most cases, it’s either up to the small business owner or the human resources department to implement the Kaizen principles that can lead to small changes in day-to-day operations that end up making a big difference to the business and employees over time. For any business that’s seeking to reach the next level of success, let’s take a closer look at the Kaizen principles and how they can help.
What is Kaizen?
The core principle of Kaizen is that things can always be better. In Japanese, it translates to “good change.” It’s merely a way of saying that both leaders and employees should never be content with “good enough” and should always be working together to make improvements.
Successful companies seem to understand that they can never rest on their laurels if they want to remain successful. That’s why there are a dozen Kaizen principles for companies to follow that can help them constantly improve. (And this isn’t just an HR trend to keep an eye on, Kaizen principles have been around for a long time and aren’t going away anytime soon.)
Let’s dive into the 12 principles:
Question Best Practices
What is Kaizen, if not a willingness to question everything? That includes questioning “best practices” protocols. It’s never wise to justify doing something because that’s the way it’s always been done. Saying something is the best practice means that it was the best way to do something at the time it was implemented. But that doesn’t mean it’s stood the test of time and is still the best way to do something. It’s good to question and reassess those best practices because there could be a better way of doing things that you haven’t considered just because you were trying not to disrupt the status quo. Remember to discuss with your HR department, however small, before you decide to change anything in your business.
Stay Open-Minded to Change
Along those same lines, Kaizen principles dictate that you stay open-minded to changing the way you do things. By their nature, people often become fixated on habits and values that go unquestioned for long periods of time. But sometimes, growth comes from changing the way things have been done previously (see also: how to make a contingency plan). After all, change and growth are almost one and the same. According to Kaizen principles, ask yourself what would happen if you started to do the opposite of everything you’ve been trained to do, such as thinking positively instead of thinking negatively. You don’t necessarily have to do that, but you have to stay open to that type of thinking.
See Areas of Waste as an Opportunity
It may sound a little hokey, but Kaizen principles urge you to look at everything as a potential opportunity. That means looking at things that seem like problems as if they’re opportunities to do things better. These situations will force you to look for a solution that can make you better off, to be a good employee, a good manager, or even a good business owner. If there are areas of waste in your company, view that as a chance to fix something that might be broken (and even reduce business costs in the process), knowing that fixing it will be good for business.
Wisdom Comes from Hardship
There will always be difficult times for any company, not to mention hardships for individual employees. But according to Kaizen principles, wisdom comes from hardships. People naturally grow and improve from failure (for example, when interviewing for a new job) so challenging times will ultimately be a positive in the long run if you approach them as an opportunity to gain wisdom. Don’t be intimidated or discouraged by facing a difficult decision. Instead, recognize that you’ll find a way through it and be better off when you reach the other side.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Again, it might seem a little cliche and hockey, but following Kaizen principles demands maintaining a positive attitude. A positive attitude can give you the fortitude to keep moving forward through challenging times and know that you will find a way to get better. You also need to think that there is a way to overcome a challenge or a roadblock that you’re facing. If you don’t have a positive attitude, you’ll lack the innovation, creativity, and hard work that you’ll need to get past that challenge.
Don’t Make Excuses
Not making excuses goes hand-in-hand with keeping a positive attitude. Kaizen principles are all about having the right mindset, and that includes not making excuses for things that have gone wrong. Instead, think about what can be done moving forward to fix the situation or alleviate the hardship (“change management”). Too many people like to make excuses for why something can’t get done or why a problem can’t be fixed. But someone who follows Kaizen principles won’t make excuses and will keep looking for new ways for how to get something done.
Use Wisdom on Kaizen Rather Than Money
Following Kaizen principles shouldn’t cost a lot of money. It’s more of a mindset that requires wisdom, creativity, and fortitude rather than capital. Granted, it takes money to make money, so an investment might be required at some point. But it’s more important that you use creativity and outside-the-box thinking to solve problems as an alternative to just throwing money at a situation.
Seek Wisdom From 10 People, Not One
According to Kaizen principles, the advice of ten people is better than the advice of one person. Keep in mind that seeking advice from someone doesn’t mean you have to follow everything that person has said. However, it never hurts to get advice from someone to get their perspective. Remember, diversity is key when it comes to business and making business decisions because it allows your company to see things from a variety of angles and not get bogged down with the same view of things that you’ve always had. As mentioned, you should be questioning the way you do things, and that’s easier to do when you seek wisdom from a multitude of outside sources.
Using Kaizen principles means making decisions based on data and nothing else. There must be evidence to back up every business decision you make, which means having data points and metrics to follow. You shouldn’t choose a path to follow and then look for data that can defend a certain decision. Instead, the data that you have should be guiding the decisions you make and the path you follow.
Definitely keep an eye on HR metrics as this will help ensure consistent business success.
Learn by Taking Action
Granted, you can learn a lot in a classroom, but that doesn’t compare to what you can learn by taking action. Kaizen principles preach the art of validated learning. You can read countless books on a topic and acquire as much theoretical knowledge as possible, but you’ll learn far more about that subject by going out into the world and actually doing it. In other words, practice makes perfect. Put your theoretical knowledge to the test and go out and perform the action you need – it’ll be the best move to make.
Choose Simple Solutions
With Kaizen principles, simplicity is always favored over complexity. This set of beliefs understands that while change is good, change is also difficult. That’s why you should always look for simple solutions to problems. Solutions don’t always have to be perfect. In fact, most of them aren’t going to be perfect. But with simple solutions, such as offloading some of your most repetitive admin tasks, lets you maintain flexibility to make future changes. Also, simple solutions lead to incremental progress, which is the basis of following Kaizen principles.
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Correct Mistakes Right Away
Mistakes are inevitable when you try to innovate and look for new ways of conducting business. Following Kaizen principles assumes that you aren’t going to be perfect and that mistakes will happen. The key is to recognize when something doesn’t work (like managing a difficult employee) and correct it right away. With Kaizen principles, you can’t be afraid that something is going to fail. After all, we learn the most from failures and hardships. It’s all about being open to change and taking the time to correct things when they aren’t working.
The Bottom Line On Kaizen Principles
In business, nothing is ever perfect. There will always be obstacles and challenges to overcome – and the way you handle them will differentiate your business from a successful one to one that falls behind.
Don’t be the latter by adopting the Kaizen principles to facilitate change and business growth. From keeping a positive attitude to turning failures into an opportunity to learn by action, the Kaizen principles will help you improve your business goals, take on board out-of-the-box solutions, and make small, impactful changes over time that’ll secure your business success.
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