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Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization

The 20 Kaizen Keys to workforce optimization are an interesting topic in today’s Agile society but still few professionals understand and apply them in their development processes.

What is Kaizen

Kaizen suggests a holistic strategy for IT structures in that it tries to develop everything in an Agile-oriented company from staff to methods to results. Reference: What is Kaizen, BVOP.org 2019

Kaizen, a Japanese phrase that indicates “change for the better,” has been utilized by corporations as a business approach directed at stabilizing an atmosphere of constant improvement. The purpose of Kaizen is to make the company, and its outcomes, services, and teams, more reliable by executing tiny system adjustments throughout the organization. Reference: What is Kaizen? A business strategy focused on improvement, CIO.com 2019

20 Kaizen Keys to workforce optimization

The article describes the 20 Kaizen Keys to workforce optimization and gives a clear explanation and examples of action on each topic. Reference: Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples, PM.MBA, 2020

Clean and tidy. Everywhere and all the time.

My first impression of the atmosphere in the office is that it is a house – a house in the workplace, a house in the departments, a house in the corridors. What can be done quickly and easily is the cleaning of workplaces – every employee no matter in which department he is and in what position he is. How will it happen – send an email to all department managers, and they to their employees, in which e-mail you inform them that this Friday has been declared a “sanitary noon” and everyone for 2-3 hours to take care of tidying up and cleaning their workplace, locker and common areas for consumables, documents, and materials. Of course, there will be people who will be against “cleaners”, but you will remind them that workplace hygiene speaks to the “hygiene” of the way they work and that they do not need to be reminded. The result of this arrangement will be saved time looking for something and focusing on work responsibilities.

Learn more about the Kaizen methodology. What is Kaizen methodology, medfd.org, medfd.org 2020

The next thing you need to pay attention to as a director is:

Management style with commitment and participation. Work with all people to engage their minds and hearts, both in the work and in their hands.

Participate in meetings with all employees, not just department managers. How to do it: let each manager give you a schedule of meetings in the department. This way you will be close to people, you will have the opportunity to hear what they are excited about and what their problems are. Most likely, at the first meetings, people will be closed, worried, and will not share much. Here is the time as a leader to “melt” the ice and shorten the distance.

Give managers an example of how they should work with their people. Provide transparency and strive for it. Reference: Transparency in Scrum teams and Agile organizations, ScrumTime.org (Scrum Time) ISSN 2652-5445 Vol 1, 2020

After you have shortened the distance with the employees, the following follows:

Planning. The timing of operations is planned to create a flow of high quality and affordable products.

Do it with all department managers, discuss goals and time to achieve. Show your otitis, listen to other opinions, and make a plan that is clear to everyone. Department managers will likely argue against ambitious goals and the short deadlines for achieving them will be concerned about the overburdening of their employees. Convince them that achieving goals is not at the expense of the health and happiness of your employees. Remind them of the values, principles, and practices that Agile professes and assure them that everything can be achieved in close-knit and cohesive teams.
An important factor in creating high-quality products is the qualification and skills of the employees. Therefore, special attention should be paid to:

Support and training for employees. Train employees to work at a higher level so that they can increase the value they add to the work.

Make appointments with department managers. Discuss what are the responsibilities and goals of each department and person, what are the skills and knowledge that employees must have to perform at a high level in achieving the goals. Managers will probably want a wide range of training programs and training, but for the first time, it is enough to be directly related to their work. Create a program for the required courses together with the training and education department so that the engagement in the courses does not interfere with the effective work.
After conducting the training, in addition to raising the qualification of the employees, we will also receive a reduction of the defects:

Defects. Defect management, including defective parts and connections.

Defects are also when an employee performs a task with insufficient precision or with a lot of repetitions and corrections. The problem here may be that the employee does not realize that he is generating a defect. Therefore, regular flashbacks and feedback would be a great help.
Along with the mentioned courses, attention should be paid to training for:

Teamwork. Focus on teamwork to involve everyone in enthusiastic improvements.

The training department could organize regular meetings with each department to set tasks and role-plays to show and emphasize the importance of teamwork. The mentoring of each manager and his example will also play an important role. There is likely to be resistance from managers that so much training reduces working time. It is time to recall the 80/20 principle and how important it is for employees to take time for self-improvement.
Not only the teamwork within the department is important, but also the cooperation and good relations between the departments. After all, the departments are the different wheels of the car and must work together and in sync for the car to run and reach its final destination. Therefore, attention should be paid to:

Work in cross-function. Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change departments to gain experience in other areas.

Thus, each employee, in addition to enriching their knowledge, will get acquainted with the work and challenges in other departments. As an outsider for the department, he can give a different solution to a problem that has arisen to improve the process or the way of performing the tasks. Mutual respect between employees will be achieved imperceptibly. The challenge in this task is to organize a staff exchange schedule so that it does not contradict other training and does not negatively affect the work process.
With the preparation of the schedule, the department managers will show with a personal example of how to work in a team, how the work is organized and distributed. To prepare the schedule in the best way for each department, the following must be observed:

Disciplined, rhythmic work. Synchronized systems where all parts work together.

There will probably be employees dissatisfied that while working, their colleagues “rest” in other departments. Here is the time when the manager takes on the role of a motivator to create a comfortable environment for the employee so that he can continue his rhythmic work until it is his turn to exchange.
Improving work between departments will help reduce:

Waste. Constantly identifying and eliminating things that either do not add value or even destroy it.

Department managers should aim to work to reduce waste. The feedback from the exchange of employees between the departments is very important here. This makes it easy to see if there are duplicate processes and activities in different departments. It may also be that some activities or positions do not add value to the company. The problem here may be the fear of some people that their position will be closed or that with the elimination of some of the duplicated activities, the work in the department will decrease and redundancies will follow.
The steps proposed so far work to improve the work process and relationships within the company. But it is also very important for us:

Partnerships between suppliers. Working with suppliers makes them part of an ever-improving chain instead of struggling with them.

No matter how well organized our work in the company is, it depends on the providers of services, consumables, and equipment to run smoothly. Therefore, the department that takes care of relationships and works with suppliers can prepare a program to improve relations between us. Such a program may include invitations to suppliers for important events for the company; organizing meetings with them on our territory and acquainting them with our results, products, and missions. We will show them that they are important to us and are part not only of the production cycle but also of our successes. A problem may be the commitment of our suppliers and their inability to attend organized events. Someone may not want to attend because of previous poor communication between us. An important role here will be played by the oratory skills of the department manager and his ability to negotiate and persuade.

Creating interconnected cells where flow and withdrawal are the main agenda.

We can interpret that the related processes must be orderly and not hindered. The results are important throughout the day and at the end of the day.
This topic again relies on the skills of managers to plan, organize, allocate, and monitor processes. Once we have improved the relationship between departments, it will be easier for their managers to communicate with each other and thus set and plan tasks so that there are synchrony and order in their performances. Obstacles that could hinder the work of one department must be kept to a minimum and this may affect the work of another. Of course, even with the best planning and organization, unexpected events or happenings can occur. The question is to deal with them adequately and quickly as a team.
Once we have built a good relationship and after proven efficiency in teamwork, we can not reach the stage of:

Zero monitoring. Build systems that avoid the need for constant human monitoring.

Instead, create a team that works to maintain and improve your technology.
The goal is to reduce micromanagement. Let employees have the freedom to decide for themselves how they will handle the tasks. It is enough for them to have clearly defined goals. In this way, managers will gain time to come up with ideas on how to improve processes and technologies. Most likely, there will be managers who will oppose this idea, but they need to understand that there are other methods of control – KPIs, surveys, search, and analysis of feedback from employees.
No matter how well the processes are structured, one should always think about:

Reducing the technological time of operations.

This goal is not difficult to achieve once we have trained and highly qualified employees. All the steps we have taken for training and interaction between employees at some point will affect the time to perform operations and tasks. The problem here may be how managers will deal with people’s motivation. If it is not there, it will reduce the efficiency of work, and hence increase the time to achieve the goals.
Once we have completed this task and improved the planning and setting of goals, this will immediately have an impact on:

Reduced inventory and lead time. Coping overproduction and reducing costs and deadlines.

This is a difficult but achievable task. Everyone should be aware that by achieving and, in addition to reducing the company’s costs, we will make our customers happy with faster product delivery. Regular meetings with customers and receiving and analyzing the feedback we receive would play an important role in dealing with overproduction. This way we will not relax and produce something that the customer did not want.

Continuous improvement of the workplace. Creating improvement as a way of life, continuous improvement of work, and a better workplace.

Hygiene in the workplace, which I mentioned at the beginning, is not enough. The look of the office needs to be improved so that it becomes more comfortable and liked by the employees. I suggest separating small “silent” rooms, which can be used for short breaks and in case of need for concentration. Improvements can be made in the coffee and snack areas – these are the places where great ideas are born in casual conversations. You can also consider replacing the work chairs – they are not so convenient for long work. A problem that may arise is the discussion of the budget that will have to be allocated to realize this improvement.
Another way to reduce costs is by paying attention to:

Support. Maintenance of machines by people who work with them, not by external specialists. This allows for constant adjustment and minimum downtime.

Who knows the machine or computer better than the user? Of course, not everyone can handle repairs, and sometimes the problems are quite large and require in-depth knowledge. But even if one person in the department is capable, he will help his team and reduce the time lost waiting for a specialist. The problem here is the enthusiasm of employees to deal with side activities. But this problem is also solved with motivation and mentoring by managers. However, the benefits will not be only for 1 person, but for the team and the organization.
Reducing machine maintenance costs would inevitably affect:

Efficiency. Balancing financial problems with other areas that indirectly affect costs.

The money saved in this way can be redirected to other goals – training, infrastructure improvement, team building. There will certainly be discussions here between the finance department and the managers of the other departments to decide where to redirect the money saved first.
A way to build a company’s image as “green” is through:

Preservation. Saving resources to avoid waste, both for the company and society and the environment.

Separate collection of waste and its transfer for recycling can be realized very quickly. Departments that use copiers and printers can use recycled paper. In the coffee and snack areas, we can place reusable cups and plates instead of the current plastic ones. The introduction of work from home can also be considered – we save time, transport costs, and reduce environmental pollution from private cars. Here, department managers may object, as they are not convinced whether their employees will do their work effectively from home. There may also be a problem with employees who technically cannot work from home – they will feel discriminated against.
After we have made great efforts for training and training, improvement of the working environment, optimization of processes and costs, improvement of the quality and speed of delivery of products to the client, we can look at:

Technology. Use and training of more complex technologies and adaptation of teams to them.

Technology and competitive engineering. Understanding and using methods such as Concurrent Engineering and Taguchi methods.
This can now include training for new, more complex, and innovative technologies as well as their implementation in our processes and productions.

This change can not but position us as a market leader and expand our network of customers, which will lead to the growth of the company. Here again, the challenges will be in good planning, setting clear and achievable goals, and accurate risk and cost calculations. Reference: The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples Agile Programming, agileprogramming.org ISSN 2652-5925

Kaizen and modern organizations

Organizations executing Kaizen need to be patient because outcomes are often performed on such a tiny scale that it can take a while to get the advantages. Businesses anxious to demonstrate the ROI of modifications might have to wait for ages to see the gains and some of the changes might not be calculable by conventional methods. Other structures such as ITSM, Lean, or Six Sigma suggest more immediate satisfaction because they try to defeat mistakes and loss to increase productivity and condition as quickly as possible while addressing detailed analytics. CIO.com, 2019

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