Project Kaizen

Bringing the power of continuous improvement to the project setting

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  • Published: Jan 10th, 2011
  • Category: Small Change
  • Comments: Comments Off on Big Ideas Come in All Sizes

Big Ideas Come in All Sizes

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In an earlier post I called kaizen a numbers game. I’ve often been asked to explain that. Some people have the notion that we only want the really good ideas or improvements. The little ones are just not that important. This view is particularly prominent in the project setting. Projects are discrete. Once they end the team often disperses. In the construction setting, people go back to their companies only to be reassigned to another project and a new group of strangers. It’s easy to see how someone can have the view that we don’t have the time for anything but really big improvements.


Make a small change today
So, why do we seem to think that we don’t have the time? In my experience it comes down to being overloaded and overwhelmed. Having too much to do and being in a bad mood about it is often the situation on projects. While there might be many sources for that situation, it doesn’t need to prevail for the whole project. It may only take a commitment to make today better than yesterday.

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  • Published: Mar 25th, 2009
  • Category: General
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All Subaru Did Was Ask

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Isn’t it amazing that the US government is getting behind green initiatives? I thought that reuse, recyle and reduce were cost effective by themselves. Apparently not. However…Subaru of America’s 20-year history challenges that. Drs. Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder just published an article in the Wall Street Journal, Greener and Cheaper telling Subaru’s head start on the auto industry. Their story is inspiring. But even more, it’s a wake-up call. Why aren’t all businesses doing this?


Subaru America employees are one of the most prolific improvers
You’ve probably seen the Subaru ads on TV. It shows a plant in the middle of an idyllic field with deer going by. I’ve been to that plant. To think that deer are feeding on the property is amazing. This is a typical industrial setting. Except it’s not typical. Subaru is not dumping or land filling anything. How do they do it? In a word…kaizen.

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Use Kaizen to Grow More than Company Revenue

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C an we cost-justify continuous improvement? Can you believe that people ask that question when deciding whether to adopt Quick and Easy Kaizen for their organization? Like not continuously improving is an option! Ralph Keller, President of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) set out to put the question to rest in his article for Industry Week, What’s Continuous Improvement Worth?


QnEK is the antidote to the 8th waste.
Ralph writes about the false savings people identify to justify continuous improvement. For instance, reductions in inventory are misrepresented as dollar-for-dollar savings. Instead, Ralph quotes one of his former bosses, “Revenue growth will cover lots of sins,” to indicate the payoff that is available from our continuous improvement efforts. He argues that driving out waste a little bit at a time and continuously will add up to a significantly enhanced competitive position. He cites a 2003 HBR article where mid-sized companies show 15% – 20% year-over-year revenue growth from their continuous improvement efforts.

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Use Rough Numbers to Begin Improving Actions

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There is no reason to let the lack of measurements get in the way of starting improving activities. I was reading an eWeek essay by Peter Coffee, Counting the Ways, that got me thinking about the 6σ approach to improvement. That approach is basically data-driven. Without measurements there are no improvements. Coffee said,


“Most businesses have no idea what they spend on unproductive hours.”

And we know unproductive hours—waste—exists everywhere. What can you do? Start with the Last Planner System®.

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Small Change: Read a Few More Pages

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Read one to three more pages each day.

My day is busy. Waaay too busy. Yet I make time to read. I didn’t always read. In fact, before college I didn’t read anything. Once I got out of college I remember saying, “Thank God I don’t have to read anymore.” It was 12 – 15 years later that I took up reading again. It was in spurts. We had started our family—three boys—they were and continue to be a handful. Sometimes I would read a novel. Other times I’d just read a few news magazines. Eventually, I got in the habit of reading at least one book each month. I’m glad I did. I now read much more than that. Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Published: Jan 7th, 2007
  • Category: General
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Kaizen Is a Numbers Game

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It’s been almost two years since Tom Peters claimed kaizen was dangerous. Now Silk and Spinach takes up the opposition, Kaizen Considered Harmful.


“Kaizen frees the hands of the innovator. And to think that sloppy processes can support rapid innovation is dangerous advice, Tom.”

As Norman Bodek says, “Kaizen is a numbers game.” The companies that embrace continuous improvement will eventually rise to the top. Learn more about taking small steps.

If Kaizen Works for a Casket Manufacturer What Might it Do for You?

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Each year Industry Week (IW) profiles the best manufacturers. The recent years’s lists have been dominated by firms employing lean approaches. Batesville Caskets is one of those firms, A Daily Routine of Continuous Improvement. In addition to their build just what is ordered and their commitment to continuous flow manufacturing, Batesville has become a benchmark company for many different manufacturers based on their commitment to kaizen. Read the rest of this entry »

Make One Small Change: Use More CFLs

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Replacing just one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) will make a big difference, especially if everyone did that.  It would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road, or not burning 29,900 railcars of coal.See Fast Company How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change the World? One. And You’re Looking at It  The impact on the environment is unbelievable.  You can’t make a better economic investment for your home.  Replacing one bulb is estimated to save you $66 over the lifetime of the CFL.  I replaced three bulbs with CFLs last year.Will Wal-Mart Change the World Selling CFLs? Let’s Wonder…  I’ll replace another six this month.  I hope you join me.

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  • Published: Nov 25th, 2006
  • Category: Books
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Small Changes for Better Health

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I‘m not in the habit of writing chapter-by-chapter reviews of books. This series on the book Small Change, by Susan & Larry Terkel is an experiment for me. I’ve been trying out the small change approach in a few areas of my life. I wrote about making a habit of appreciating and acknowledging others. It’s a habit that I want for myself.

There are many habits I want for myself. In Chapter 2 the authors propose a set of behaviors Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Published: Nov 19th, 2006
  • Category: Books
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Small Changes in Life

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Kaizen is Toyota’s winning strategy for competing throughout the world. Small changes everyday by everyone keeps the automaker on its toes while stepping on those of their competitors. Susan and Larry Terkel claim, “Small changes are consistent with human nature and evolution.” Their book Small Change offers a straight-forward approach to adopting small changes and the kaizen way in your life. In this first of six postings that follow the chapters of their book, I’ll highlight the Terkel’s approach. Read the rest of this entry »

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