Similiarities, Differences and Co-Existence of Kaizen and Innovation

When KaizenBiz community members suggest a post or topic, I listen and find a way to include it in our weekly chat. So, when Bernd Nurnberger (@CoCreatr) suggested a post on how Amazon is using kaizen, it seemed interesting to look at kaizen. Companies of all sizes are often looking for ways to be better, more efficient but there is also a desire to innovate products and services so they can capture more of the market. Where are the similarities and differences between kaizen and innovation? And can they co-exist in the same organization?

Kaizen – quick review

Kaizen is a Japanese concept of continuous and incremental improvement of a process. This process might be a manufacturing process, an accounting process or a customer service and the continuous improvements make the process more effective and efficient. Toyota is the most famous example of a company that uses kaizen although a number of companies also use it.

Innovation

We’ve talked about innovation a few times on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz because it is somewhat elusive and much desired by nearly every company that exists. In “What’s All the Fuss About Innovation?“, I used this definition, “the process of translating an idea or invention to a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay.” Curiously, for this framing post, I ran across another definition from an Australian govemment initiative which described innovation as “…renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things.” With the Australian government’s definition, it might seem that there is little difference between kaizen and innovation.

Other overlaps

Here are some other overlaps that spring to mind:

  • Both kaizen and innovation rely on someone identifying that there is another (and better) way to do something.
  • Organizational leaders must be sponsors and/or supporters for the changes to be explored and implemented
  • They both depend on ideas
  • Iteration is often part of the process
  • Use creativity in problem solving

However there are differences

Even with a number of overlaps, there are ways that kaizen and innovation are not the same:

  • Kaizen is a continous process that uses incremental steps and can be rigorous in its application across the organization
  • Innovation can range from being small adjustments or changes or radical new things
  • Innovation can seem chaotic or without structure due to the creative process
  • Kaizen is typically anyone’s job in an organization while innovation tends to be assigned to a particular group of people
  • Kaizen focuses on what is and how it can better and more efficient
  • Innovation focuses on what could be and how it is new and/or disruptive

 But can they co-exist?

There are a few dynamics swirling around organizations. One is the memory of the experience of the Great Recession is still very fresh so there are policies, business goals and expectations created in response. This is certainly prudent as companies are rebuilding and adjusting to the current circumstances. Another dynamic is the rapid progression of technological advancements. One of the other dynamics is this mindset that unless a company is innovative, it is unsustainable and will fail. In a Forbes post, Vijay Govindarajan is quoted saying,

“The more you hardwire a company on total quality management, [the more] it is going to hurt breakthrough innovation. The mindset that is needed, the capabilities that are needed, the metrics that are needed, the whole culture that is needed for discontinuous innovation, are fundamentally different.”

That seems to indicate that they cannot co-exist. This opens a number of questions. Not all organizations are designed to pursue radical changes. There may even be a lack of understanding of both kaizen and innovation.

What do you think? Is there a place for kaizen alongside innovation? What similarities and differences do you believe exist?  Join us Friday, February 28, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

Is there any chance that something is missing or missed as systems are tweaked and refined?

What is the difference between change and improvement?

In what ways could kaizen prevent innovation in an organization?

How could kaizen could co-exist with innovation? Are any adaptations necessary?

 

 

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Is Branding Going Through Another Evolution Or More of the Same?

Branding is always an interesting topic. In many ways, successful branding is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle as it is hard to know just how a consumer sees a particular company.. Paula Lawlor of the Beacon Initiative describes “…branding is what you are.” From your logo to how you are represented in your communications, branding is meant to illustrate who a company is in the world and what sort of person buys from said company.

Coca-Cola is an easy example

It is easy to identify the red and white and particular font used by Coca-Cola. Coke is meant to signify happiness and community. From the recent American ad to the bottles with names printed on them in 32 countries in Europe, Coca Cola has been clear about who they are and why they want the consumer to pick their carbonated beverage over another. They are speaking to lifestyle and values, not thirst.

But is branding really changing or is it more of the same?

A recent New Yorker post by James Surowiecki claims we’re in “The Twilight of the Brands.” He uses Lululemon as an example of how brands are fragile. After the debacle with the see-through yoga pants and the fabric pilling, Lululemon’s brand could no longer be associated with the “lifestyle” they branded. And adding to this public crisis is the access consumers have to information about brands and their products. Surowiecki explains that brand loyalty is largely a relic of a time when information was less accessible. A company can make a fabulous or disastrous product and have it discussed and dissected via social media. This coupled with segmentation and that a company’s reputation is based on the most recent product (not its history) could very well make branding even more ephemeral.

This seems to say that branding has to evolve into a “personality” more than a message

Branding does seem to be more about “who you are” rather than historical performance. Just because Sony made a great television in that past doesn’t mean consumers will trust that its current product is equally as good. Which brings us to Tom Asacker’s question, “Does branding matter?” In his post, Asacker writes, “A brilliant idea, even if placed directly in people’s paths, is simply not enough to engage them today.” This seems to agree with Surowiecki’s point that brand loyalty is waning, if not dead. It is not the idea that matters, it is the “impassioned dance.” Branding seems to becoming a mutual storytelling between company and consumers. Perception, context and priorities are more than a message. They embody the personality of the company. Whether an organization sells itself as green, innovative, sustainable or some other sexy concept depends on the consumer participating in creating the message. Brand evangelization, word of mouth and social media posts and shares describe companies as “someone” with whom to do business. If branding is really a mutual act between company and consumer, it may be that branding is evolving.

What do you think? Is branding going through another evolution or is it really more of the same? Join us Friday, February 21, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

How is branding really an expression of the consumer’s desired lifestyle?

What trends or changes do you see in how companies brand themselves?

 How does access to information from other consumers add to a brand’s story?

How is branding more like a company’s personality than a message?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach, trainer and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.

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Okay, Managers, How Do You Keep Good Employees?

managers, keep good employees, stay interviews, performance coachingWhile you may be reading news articles reporting how many jobs were created in your region of the world, it is often interesting to see if this is a localized event or something bigger. According to a 2013 Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, global trends point to positive growth but survey after survey of employee engagement still report dismal numbers.

So, what’s a manager to do with the new and existing employees?

We have discussed employee engagement before on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz but we usually look at it from the employee’s perspective. But there are certain challenges for managers. There is plenty of advice to be more authentic and to act as more of a facilitator of people’s talents and personalities. There are many workplace trends that affect the nature of management. And yet, the basics tasks of management haven’t changed. Managers are still expected to plan, organize, coordinate, encourage, provide and monitor their staff. The methods may change over time but not the essential job.

But aren’t the methods really at the nub of finding and keeping good employees?

This is where the 21st workplace is something of a crucible for managers. Leaders may navigate the company as a whole through the turbulence left in the wake of the Great Recession, rapid technological changes and other factors but managers are the ones who are making sure the actual work gets done. There is always a search for more effective or efficient ways to identify the “right” employee or process that support meeting the business goals. It might be stack ranking or some other talent management system. It may even be the never-ending search for the best project management or productivity tools. But all of these tools cannot replace the most basic of managerial skills –the ability to relate and communicate. These skills are what are cited time and again in employee engagement surveys.

Two possible avenues to support managers engaging with their employees better

Keeping top-notch employees is certainly a goal for any manager. One avenue is to conduct “stay interviews.” Rather than waiting for the exit interview to find out what one of your star employees did not like, stay interviews are one-on-one conversations reviewing the employee’s career goals, rating current performance and possible action steps to maintain (or increase) the employee’s engagement.

Another avenue is to adding performance coaching skills. In a previous career, I supervised mental health clinicians and found that facilitating their learning and insight both helped them provide better therapy but it also helped me know where their blind spots were and what kinds of clients they were best suited for. According to Josh Patrick, this process is far superior to performance reviews since performance coaching conversations could be on-going brief meetings and formalizes what managers are already doing when they check in with employees regarding assigned projects.

What do you think? What tools or behaviors can a manager use to keep good employees engaged? Join us Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to discuss how managers can keep good employees on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz 

What types of skills are most necessary for managing employees well?

To what degree do we act as if planning, organizing, coordinating and monitoring is not connected to the quality of the relationship between managers and direct reports?

What current management trends are getting in the way of facilitating employees’ performance?

Along with stay interviews and performance coaching, what other things can managers do to keep good employees?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach, trainer and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.

 

 

 

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Useful Procrastination, Satya Nadella and Holacracy

Twitter, Twitter chat, KaizenBizIt is time for “Bring Your Own Headline” on our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this coming Friday. It is always fun to see what community members bring for discussion. If you would like to bring something for us to talk about, simply bring the link and a question. Here are three topics, procratination, Satya Nadella and holacracy, to get us started…

Procrastination is good?

Most of us probably squirm a bit when we think of tasks we are avoiding.However, according to a two books reviewed in Fast Company, we would be much better off if we did procrastinate more. There is a catch to this though. If you are just procrastinating without a purpose, the books’ authors agree that this is laziness. Both Frank Partnoy and John Perry recommend “structure procrastination.” Here are their reasons why procrastination can be useful:

  • Structured procrastinators get more done. While they put off one task, they complete others.
  • Procrastinator make better decisions. During the delay, there is more time to think through the options and gather information.
  • Procrastination leads to creativity. A task that is too hard to complete might need a different process.
  • Unnecessary tasks disappear. Busy work is pointless and avoiding it allows for space to take on the important tasks.
  • Procrastination leads to better apologies. Again, time to think is built into the delay and then the best words can be found.
  • Procrastination gives you insight. Sometimes we put things off because we have an unconscious reason driving our behavior. The delay can illuminate this unconscious reason.

When do you see procrastination as being useful?

How is procrastination connected to decision fatigue and difficulty maintaining self-control?

With procrastination, are we really seeking time to think with putting off tasks?

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO

With Steve Ballmer stepping down this month, there is a new CEO for Microsoft. Satya Nadella. Before Ballmer stepped down, he had announced that Microsoft would go in a new direction. Ballmer is certainly noted for his ebullient personality With the choice of Satya Nadella,  Nadella is known as a quiet but business-savvy person with a strong engineering background. Quite a number of people describe Nadella as inclusive and able to get people engaged and excited in their work. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft not only responds to the current market but introduces its own new ideas.

Why do you suppose Microsoft chose to go with Satya Nadella rather than someone similar to Steve Ballmer?

What’s next for Microsoft?

And just what is holacracy?

Just when you thought you had a good grasp of the latest business structure terms, here comes a new one. Holacracy is “a self-governing, purpose-driven business structure that reassigns authority and responsibility based on the task at hand.” Companies that are able to respond positively to the current marketplace need to be agile and use collaboration among other tools.

This business structure has no CEO or managers. Each person is a partner with complete autonomy and authority. On Holacracy One, they write, “Everyone becomes a leader of their roles and a follower of others’, processing tensions with real authority and real responsibility, through dynamic governance and transparent operations.” This is to encourage project ownership and accountability instead of keeping people limited to their departments or skill set. Governance of organizations that use holacracy have a more democratic approach to make decisions, respond to “tension” and design rules to contain certain personalities from dominating the whole. Data is used actively in strategic planning and decision-making.

What size organization could benefit the most from using holacracy as their business structure?

What sorts of advantages do  you see for organizations that do use holacracy?

What could be the disadvantages?

Now it’s your turn

Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, this Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT with a post that caught your attention this week. Connect with Elli St.George Godfrey (@3keyscoach) jas the chat starts and let her know your link and your question. She will add your topic to the discussion.

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