Getting the most out of employee training and continuing education is a top priority for most organizations, and having steps in place that can help bolster that success is critically important. Many business professionals are familiar with the concept of the Kaizen method of management, but far fewer know how to align it with their organization’s needs. Kaizen means continuous improvement and is the brainchild of Masaaki Imai, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, who first introduced this method to Japanese industries in the 1980s. Part of an evolution of business philosophies focused on improving processes and eliminating waste (see also the Deming Circle, Six Sigma and Lean), Kaizen involves everyone in the organization and embraces all ideas as good ideas. Employees at all levels of the organization are empowered to find ways to improve business practices in order to achieve measurable goals.
So, how can this way of thinking inform the way you approach training?
Kaizen: the secret sauce to your L&D
Here are a few guideposts to consider when implementing Kaizen principles into your educational efforts.
- Start small. Are you adding Kaizen principles to learning for the first time? Then it may be wise to choose an area of focus and work to streamline it. Give it some time to see how the changes work for your organization and then expand when the time is right.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Masaaki Imai wrote the book and there are considerable Kaizen research and case studies to show you the way. Use available resources, including your own people. By utilizing the skills of the experts in each part of your business, you can maximize your in-house knowledge, energize your current employees and educate the next generation.
- Thinking caps. Be open to new ideas and suggestions from everyone. Kaizen is an on-going process and by tweaking how you train employees and how continuing education is presented, you can strengthen your organization and increase everyone’s knowledge at the same time.
- Align training with goals. As you are shaping the way you train employees you may see areas within the organization that need improvement or goals that need to be redefined. This process may open the door to better processes all around.
- In for the long haul. Change rarely happens overnight and positive change may take time to set in. The organizational experts stress that consistency is critical to any process. Whether you are conducting an orientation for a new employee or leading a continuing education effort, establishing clear, measurable goals and tracking your progress is important to truly improving your process. Notice what works and take time to celebrate it.
Finally, keep an eye on goals and don’t be afraid to adjust them as needed. Many experts recommend embracing the clarity and precision of Kaizen, but also keeping an eye on the big picture. Find what works for your people and be a learner as well as a teacher.
For more: Check out Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success, by Masaaki Imai and this article from ResearchGate: Improving Teaching and Learning through Kaizen and 7th Habit, by R.M. Sapungian and J. Cuerteras.