implementing kaizen

My friend Tomek is kean on lean and the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. He preaches about kaizen every now and then. Once upon a time he sat in the pub with his mate, a guy who owns a construction company. The guy caught the bait and read the book. Here is a short story what happened to his company when he started implementing kaizen.

My friend’s friend borrowed some ideas known from the Toyota Production System, where everyone can suggest improvements to the process. So he asked all his employees how could they improve the way they work. Employees said they prefer to be paid for the actual work they do instead of being on the hourly rate. The company owner was reluctant to implement this idea. He was afraid that he would have to pay his employees much more than before.

Reluctantly, he let go and changed the pay model according to his employees suggestions.

Here’s the outcome:

1. The productivity boosted. Employees use to embed 40 pales during irrigation works. Now they manage 200…

2. Misbehavior ended. The company owner had to get up at 5AM to arrive at the site before his employees. If he was late, the guys started drinking making the day pretty much useless. Now they never drink at work and the owner arrives at site when he wants…

3. Employees motivate and watch each other. Previously, some guys worked more than others. Some didn’t work at all when the owner was not watching. Finally, there were occasions when someone purposely damaged some machines just to slack around a bit longer. Now everyone works equally hard because the team has to deliver. If someone stands out with poor work, the entire team tells him off.

4. The team self-organizes. Previously, the employees didn’t care what they do throughout the day. They had to be told what to do. Now they discuss and plan in the morning what they execute during the day. It looks like stand-up meetings are not restricted to IT…

5. Motivation increased. Previously, employees didn’t want to work on Saturdays or when there was a bad weather. Now the rain nor the Saturday don’t bother them at all.

6. Morale increased. Employees deliver faster which makes them proud. Also, they are paid more which makes them happy. Do you think the company owner is also happier? I wonder how much he misses getting up at 5AM…

7. He pays them just 60% more…

This is my favorite lesson learned from this true story (you tell me what is yours):

The role of leadership is listening to the people and trusting them when it comes to implementing their ideas.

5 Responses to implementing kaizen

  1. Falkayn says:


    That’s a great example of the power of self-organising teams! You could get into trouble doing this if you didn’t really understand what you were trying to boost (after all, 200 pales might be great, but what if everything else was not done?).

    I’ll send this onto Jason Yip as he loves lean too!


  2. Ward says:

    That is a great tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very precise info… Thanks for sharing this one.

    A must read post! Ward, http://wikianything.

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