Creating a Kaizen Culture for a High Maturity Agile Organization

Everyone I know working to help organizations to become Agile agree that…

Becoming Agile is a Process

I know teams that have been maturing for 3+ years and they will tell you they still have room for growth.  That tells me from first hand experience as well as talking to organizations that have committed to this journey so they can be more responsive to their customers and business, that not only do you have to be committed to being patient with the growth process – you can help the process by creating a Kaizen Culture.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement”, or “change for the better”.  It refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes.

Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, that can humanize the workplace, helps people work smarter, not harder; and teaches people how to spot and eliminate waste in their own work and business processes. It covers five main areas:

  • Teamwork: A strong company is a company that pulls together every step of the way. Kaizen aims to help employees and management look at themselves as members of a team, rather than competitors.
  • Personal Discipline: A team cannot succeed without each member of the team being strong in themselves. A commitment to personal discipline by each employee ensures that the team will remain strong.
  • Improved Morale: Strong morale amongst the workforce is a crucial step to achieving long-term efficiency and productivity, and kaizen sets it as a foundational task to keep constant contact with employee morale.
  • Quality Circles: Groups which meet to discuss quality levels concerning all aspects of a company’s running.
  • Suggestions for Improvement: By requesting feedback from each member of the team, the management ensures that all problems are looked at and addressed before they become significant.

How does an organization or team progress in this maturing process?

I have spoken on this topic at various gatherings of PM’s, teaching them that it is a simple iterative process that anyone can follow. It is known as the Deming Cycle or PDCA cycle.  In Six Sigma programs, it called “define, measure, analyze, improve, control” (DMAIC).

A Five-part Recording Series…

I found a 5-part series (each 20 mins long) that every Agilista should listen to and start applying to help organizations and teams to succesfully become more Lean-Agile.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5