Continuous Improvement - Kaizen

Kaizen, Japanese for improvement. When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain. It has been applied in healthcare, psychotherapy, life-coaching, government, banking, and other industries.[1]

Although many organizations talk about Kaizen, continuous improvement, when you use Lean-Agile, you get an environment that more directly supports Kaizen with the iteration retrospective meeting. The visual Kanban board lets the entire team see that status of all the work in the project. The daily standups provide frequent opportunities to see the board as it changes.

When the entire team can see all the data that normally is only available to the person with the MS Project file or spreadsheet with all the status data, then the brains of all on the team can engage towards improving specific problems. This facilitates ideas from everyone, making better improvements regularly.

With every iteration, the team can put their heads together to get a little better and find more impediments to remove or Lean wastes to identify and eliminate.

We have had to get some teams past the idea that this is only for some documented "lessons learned" process and that they can actually make their own work easier by doing the retrospective each iteration. Time boxes on this meeting keep the duration manageable.

1. Reproduced from Wikipedia article under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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