They say change is the only constant factor of life. Without it, there can be no improvement and hence, no evolution. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy which believes in continuous improvement of practical applications for better productivity, and propagates this practice through the principles of Gemba Kaizen.
The principles of Kaizen are popularly used by several corporate organizations to improvise their existing techniques of production, management, engineering and manufacturing. The term ‘Gemba’ is associated with Kaizen as it refers to actual place of work, where its principles are applied. The mantra of Gemba Kaizen works on five principles, that can help a manager get the processes back on track in case of any deviations.
Five Principles of Gemba Kaizen
1. When a trouble (abnormality) happens, go to gemba first.
Due to lack of communication, oftentimes, managers are informed about the problems or troubles which have occurred in the work place, days or weeks later. Nothing much can be done about the stale information and neither can the damage be reversed. To solve these problems a manager needs to understand the issue on a firsthand basis. This is the first principle of Gemba Kaizen. It says that the manager must physically get down to ground zero to understand the problems in all the possible angles.
Meet your employees and your workers to hear about the problem, study their behavior, delve into their apprehensions and observe the processes that are being carried out. This will help you identify the loopholes and give you clarity about the matter in question. Say for instance, HR prejudice can cause high attrition and disrupt productivity. If you fail to use Kaizen Gemba here, this problem can be conveniently blamed on fellow workers by questioning their skills and competency.
2. Check with gembutsu, which includes machines, tools, rejects, and customer complaints.
While observing, look out for finer nuances that could have ticked off the issue in the first place. A prima facie evidence needs to be dug deeper to know cause of malice. State of the machines, computers, manuals, equipment, customer’s register and other records will bring out the undercurrents at the gemba or the workplace, where real-time work is taking place. Check whether the records are in line with the prescribed procedures, rules and regulations. Accurate and in-depth observations will bring out ambiguities that need sorting out. Following the same example, observing the workers and the supervisors at the workplace will show their relationships. The discord, which has been cleverly masked will come out in the open, to show you the epicenter of the trouble. Remember that it takes two to tango. Thus, blaming the problem on one party can never solve the issue.
3. Take temporary countermeasures on the spot
Merely recognizing the problem is not enough. Immediate action to resolve the problem is the only way of showing others that a change is required. Makeshift arrangements such as checklists, writing down instructions or a daily reporting system which show immediate results, will benefit one and all. A temporary improvement plan, many times has a permanent effect. These are basic business management skills which a manager needs to possess. So, allowing your employees to give anonymous feedback, holding weekly meetings and sorting out the interpersonal issues can help you to bring back smooth functioning of activities.
4. Find out the root cause
When efforts you’ve taken seems for a serious cause, it is important to treat it once and for all. Now that you are well-informed, comprehend the situation, buildup permutations and combinations, analyze them, design alternatives to avert such situations, make a dummy application and then synthesize the given scenario differently. This procedure will take you to the root cause of the problem. Question the people you meet and the sequence of events that occurred till the point of damage. Finding the root cause is no rocket science. An eye for the detail is all that you will need. For instance, read in between the lines of the feedback you’ve received, the registers you’ve read, the invoices that you have, the complaints that are visible and accept the problem, no matter how tough it sounds.
5. Standardize for prevention of recurrence
Once you devised alternative solutions, perfect them to prevent recurrence. It is time to standardize them for further improvement. Convey these changes to all your employees and provide them training if required. Maintaining the quality of your work can only be achieved through cooperation from your workers and helping them understand the need for change. A good example of this would be, continuing with the feedback and meetings with your employees. Also, keeping in touch with your customers through mails can go a long way in improving your work process. This would definitely bring in a sense of responsibility towards work.
A gemba is the source of all vital information and the fountainhead of innovation too. To keep problems at bay, a manager must be actively involved in actual activities and supervise his subordinates. This way, not only will you learn the causes that can create deviations, but the time spent there will help you to develop a healthy rapport with your workers. After all, happy workers make a happier workplace, which creates the happiest and the most loyal clientele.