The Kaizen Method

So I am back in a nearly post-pandemic world and this week, an overheard conversation (more about that later) has me thinking about Kaizen and putting the customer first.

Originally a Japanese management concept, Kaizen is a mindset based on continuous improvement where all employees are encouraged to make small incremental change. I am told that Kai translates as Change and Zen for the better.

Kaizen is founded on 3 basic pillars of

  • Housekeeping – in a clean workplace materials and tools are easy to find, use and maintain so that there is no excess in production and no shortage of materials
  • Elimination of Waste – removing any resource that does not add value.
  • Standardization – producing products an and services to pre-set specifications

There are many good books and training courses written on the Kaizen approach, so the purpose of this post is not to discuss the virtues of the approach but more to discuss the culture.

In IT Service Management we have Continual Service Improvement (CSI). Often operated as a monolithic process itself to review and evaluate other processes using indicators like the CMMI maturity model. I have seen this work and fail in different guises over the years and whilst it has its place in a modern service environment, CSI does not drive cultural change.

So what I love about Kaizen is that it is a mindset meant to pervade every level of the service organisation. If we all look for small improvement and in particular put ourselves in the shoes of our customers then services will mature and improve organically.

So, that conversation? Well two Service Managers were discussing long wait times on a web chat channel for users to raise incidents. Whilst one was concerned for the user experience the other remarked that it was a Service rushed in as a response to the Covid pandemic and homeworking with no SLA.

When we let the service level agreement rule our mindset and our actions then the customer is always the loser. Be more Kaizen and think about the customer in all you do.