Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Atomic Rules of Kaizen

Lately I have been thinking about Kaizen (continuous improvement), and came across blog by Pete Abilla. Earlier this year he wrote a post about The Atomic Rules of Kaizen. The post was so good I will quote it as such:

Systems that are internally consistent and externally pragmatic stem from just a few rules. Systems with exceedingly many rules typically fail or will not endure. For example,
  • Most mathematical truths stem from just a few axioms
  • Music stems from just a handful of finite notes
  • Most Martial Arts stem from a few principles of angle, attack, force, etc.
This same approach is true for Kaizen. In Kaizen, it is important to have fidelity to just a few atomic rules, from which a range of behavior will originate. Below are the rules that I subscribe to:
  1. Spend no Money
  2. Add no People
  3. Add no Space
  4. Add no Steps (Touches)
These four atomic rules collectively form constraints, leading to some creative tension. For example,
  • We will be compelled to use creativity
  • We will be compelled toward elegance
  • We will be compelled to respect people
  • We will be compelled to question the status quo
  • We will be compelled to think “we can, if…” instead of “we can’t because…”
  • We will be compelled to focus on processes, instead of finger-pointing at others
  • We will be compelled to make many small improvements, instead of big, water-shed changes that take a lot of time and resources
  • We will be compelled to seek the collective wisdom of many people, instead of a few, select heroes
In a tough economic climate in which we all find ourselves, a Kaizen worldview is needed more now than ever.

By Pete Abilla,


Anonymous said...

Hi Samuli,

I know only a little about the Kaizen, so could you please explain to me, what you mean by the "add no people"? Do you mean "add the right people", or "have the right people"? It sounds on the other hand quite self-evident. I have read that the Kaizen means roughly the same as a continuous improvement. Most likely and realistically many executives hire sometimes people, who are not ready or the "right people" immediately. Sometimes it just takes time to learn the working methods, company culture, co-workers etc. Executives with high morale are also the ones who need to encourage and give continuous feedback to new employees during their starting/learning phase.


Samuli said...

Hi Daddy,

I think we are talking about two different layers here. The rules apply to any Kaizen initiative where "add no people" provides constraint to continuosly improve the existing way of doing without adding extra resources.

Your comment about "add the right people", or "have the right people" is more related to building or having a Kaizen culture where these rules are applied naturally - and that is on completely different level.

Building a Kaizen culture takes time and effort, it does not happen with one or two successful Kaizen initiatives.


Anonymous said...

Hi Samuli,

Thanks for your clarification.