Make small, incremental changes for effective kaizen

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Kaizen is all about making small, incremental changes: small steps which will snowball into something even bigger over time. Here is why usi...

Kaizen is all about making small, incremental changes: small steps which will snowball into something even bigger over time. Here is why using PDCA helps you to maintain the discipline to keep changes compact, but effective.

By Karn G. Bulsuk


In my previous articles about Kaizen, a common theme keeps popping up: kaizen is about incremental changes. Which basically means that when doing kaizen projects, small projects to test the water to slowly make things better is better than a massive project, incurring massive political and monetary costs if it fails.

One of the best ways to maintain the discipline of making only incremental changes is to use PDCA, or Plan-Do-Check-Act. PDCA is a methodology which is as it sounds: when you want to improve something, you make a plan, execute the plan and check what worked (or didn't). In Act, you figure out what went didn't work well, and use the five-whys analysis to figure out why exactly it didn't work out as expected.

The reason why PDCA helps to maintain this discipline is because of the last steps of PDCA: Check and Act. If you've managed to plan and do a massive project, the second you start performing analysis of what went wrong, you will realize there are so many problems to fix that it becomes another massive undertaking on its own.

What you will end up seeing is problem after problem after problem: enough to overwhelm even the best of intentions and most hardened of project managers. It's no fun to be performing 5-whys analysis on fifty problems. It gets boring very quickly.

Kaizen is supposed to be encouraging, by allowing you to see the fruits of your labour. By using PDCA, you are continually reminded that you don't need to do something big and epic to make kaizen work. All you need to do is make incremental improvements. Take small steps, one at a time. Before you know it, you would have built something even bigger and better than before, without the stress.


Photo credit: Aldo Cavini Benedetti

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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Make small, incremental changes for effective kaizen
Make small, incremental changes for effective kaizen
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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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