School Business Affairs February 2019 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | FEBRUARY 2019 33 management briefcase Revisiting the principle of kaizen. Challenge the Status Quo By Nan Wodarz, Ed.D. T here is always room to make small improvements, challenge the status quo, and fine-tune processes and practices. In fact, you and your col- leagues probably do this week in and week out without calling it “change” or even “continuous improvement.” Over time, all of these incremental changes add up to make a significant, positive impact on your team and organization. Making this process intentional, systemic, and then institutionalized, even if only in one department, can be the cornerstone to building a team culture of continuous improvement, thereby advancing the goals of the organization. The Kaizen Approach One approach to organizational improve- ment is kaizen . Kaizen, a Japanese word that translates to mean change ( kai ) for the good ( zen ), is based on the philosophical belief that everything can be made better. Some organizations are happy with the status quo, but organizations that follow the principle of kaizen are always looking for ways to improve—they regard nothing as perfect or done. Pursuing incremental changes that result in substantial changes over the longer term, without causing the pain of radical innovation, is a much gentler and employee-friendly approach to create a culture of continuous improvement. Kaizen engages all employees at all levels in identifying inefficiencies and encour- ages them to suggest where improvements can be made. Operational Framework There are 10 basic principles of kaizen: 1. Say no to the status quo. Recognize that improvement is always possible—every- thing can work better and every aspect of every process should be considered for improvement. 2. If something is wrong, correct it. If it’s a broken process that can be fixed, repair it. If it can’t be fixed, discard it. 3. Accept no excuses and make things happen. People become lulled by the status quo. Convince them that the new processes will be better and motivate them to get involved with the changes. 4. Improve everything continuously. Change often begets a need for more change; as one process improves, other processes may need to be improved or eliminated. Improve them one by one. 5. Abolish old, traditional concepts that can’t prove their efficiency. 6. Be economical. Small improvements lead to small savings, but those can add up to considerable sums of money. 7. Empower everyone to take part in problem solving. Everyone should feel ownership of the improvement process. 8. Before making decisions, ask “why” five times to get to the root cause. This principle is related to cause and effect. Before making a decision, your analysis should be five levels deep. 9. Get information and opinions from multiple people. Everyone has a spe- cific perspective, knowledge base, and strength. Interdisciplinary teams are an efficient and effective way to implement continuous change processes. 10. Remember that improvement has no limits. Never stop looking for ways to improve. Much of the focus of kaizen is on effi- ciency—on reducing waste. That waste can take the form of time, effort, and money. That’s why it’s important to review all pro- cesses, no matter how small. YUROLAITSALBERT/STOCK.ADOBE.COM