See, Solve, Standardise, and Sustain

See, Solve, Standardise, and Sustain

To become better (the root meaning of “kaizen”), people first need to SEE the problems, waste, strain, frustrations, and unevenness in their processes. But to “see” requires engaged and motivated people, capable of “seeing”. The accompanying photo is an example of the obvious breach of a standard - everybody, including a traffic official, can see it....

People will struggle to identify improvement opportunities when staff morale is low. Negative emotions like fear, irritation, shame, guilt, and feelings of inferiority and rejection, consume people’s energy and prevents a constructive connection with their workplace. To see, people must be free.

Furthermore, staff members must continuously be developed in what to see and how to see. This can only be achieved if leadership provides a clearer understanding of why improvement is needed and which goals the organisation is pursuing through continuous improvement. This development includes training and coaching on what is regarded as problems and inefficiencies.

With other words, for people to see the numerous improvement opportunities around them, the emotional, rational, relational, attitudinal, ethical, and behavioural atmosphere must be created by the leadership team.

Once people can clearly see a problem (because it is so obvious through effective visual management) they need to SOLVE it through teamwork. This requires formal problem solving skills to identify and address root causes. However, a problem must first be clearly stated and this comes through practise. A problem is only solved if it has been verified that the solution made the situation better.

Once it is confirmed that the situation has improved, the better way must be STANDARDISED. There is no point in finding solutions if the better way is not documented in an easy and transparent way so people can know what the new standard is. If staff has not changed their habits (the way they work) the efforts so far would have been to almost no avail. Standards help to train, retrain, and check that the best way is followed, but it also becomes the basis for further enhancement of the current standard.

Nonetheless, having standards does not imply they are being followed. There should be a formal process in a team whereby standards are being checked (in a respectful manner) by the person using the standard and by the supervisor, team leader, and manager. This includes checking that the actual documented standard is up to date but also to verify if the relevant staff member is adhering to the standard. A standard can also help a supervisor, team leader, or manager to identify if the staff member recently found a better way. Standards can only be SUSTAINED if standardised processes exists whereby supervisors, team leaders, and management can verify that people are indeed adhering to standards.

A sustainable and developing organisation requires engaged and skilled people, willing and able to see problems and inefficiencies. This must lead to problem solving through motivated people who are also able to create and improve standards in the pursuit of better workplace habits.

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