Kaizen is a simple principle to understand, but a hard principle to practice.
It’s a notion that everyone, regardless of age or station, should strive to improve every day. Each facet of your life can get better, the Kaizen philosophy argues, even if it’s just subtle improvements here and there.
Those subtle improvements, however, can create massive change over time.
That idea was embraced wholeheartedly by two executives. Richard Jackson and Craig Bower are the CEO and COO of Premier Fixtures – a New York-based organization that creates retail displays for companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods, American Eagle Outfitters, and Foot Locker.
Premier was already working on implementing Lean Six Sigma (in an effort to improve efficiencies company-wide), and Jackson and Bower felt like Kaizen was the perfect pairing to accelerate Premier’s progress. Both of them were already familiar with the concept of Kaizen, and were big supporters.
“We are vigorously applying common sense,” Bower said in a press release.
“It seems a lot of times when we walk through the door at work we make things complex, or just make them harder than they should be, where the better approach is making something simple using common sense.”
Small Change, Big Impact
Here’s an example. Think about your kitchen. Where do you keep your silverware? How many redundant steps do you have to take to grab a spoon or a knife while cooking? Is there a better spot for your utensils? What was your rationale for its current location?
Odds are, if you’re like most people, you didn’t deliberate over the drawer your silverware is in. Your forks, spoons, and knives went into a drawer that did not offend your sensibilities, and that was good enough. You haven’t given it a second thought since you moved in.
But this is the kind of thinking that Jackson and Bower are trying to get rid of at Premier. There is a better, more efficient way to do things. And the change might be small, but make it anyway!
Back in November, Premier formally launched their Kaizen initiative – they called it their CEO Kaizen Event, and to drive interest and enthusiasm, Jackson stepped out of his C-suite office, and joined teams on the manufacturing floor.
The response was a positive one.
“They see [Jackson is] taking time out of his week to do this, because he believes in it,” Bower said. “He’s making a statement that he’s not too busy … that actually he’s too busy not to do this.”
The event was more than a month ago, and so far, so good. People at Premier say the new principles are already paying off. Processes are simpler, social structures are less complicated, and the organization is taking on more work and more people.
Michael Lachman, Head of Account Management, is a champion of the new Kaizen initiative. He summed it up succinctly saying, “Increasing efficiency will reduce cost, and increasing capacity will reduce time to market – which our clients will certainly appreciate!”
Kaizen isn’t always easy, but it’s simple. And it doesn’t get any simpler than that.