Judy GombitaFor this guest post, allow me to introduce you to Judy Gombita who is a member of the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog. Judy Gombita  is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist. Now co-editor, she’s been the Canadian contributor to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations, since its launch in April 2007. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

As Kaizen is the Japanese concept that encompasses continuous and incremental organizational improvement, is a food analogy not apt? The “continuous”—the big picture—is more like a multi-course meal or buffet (a building, complementary succession of courses or multiple offerings) feeding a business, whereas the “incremental” improvements—sometimes organizational differentiators—is more akin to an amuse-bouche (“mouth amuser”), hors d’œuvre, canapé or zensai (i.e., Japanese appetizers), which may not be essential but does much for satisfying the soul.

Do you subscribe to being a kaizen “foodie” in a major or a minor key? Meaning, are all aspects or components of the preparation, deployment and consumption of a meal critical or do you take great delight in the smallest of morsels or in one or two unique ingredients in the organizational mix?

 During the last week of December, a CTV Canada AM segment featured a guest chef who proposed hosting a New Year’s Eve party comprising just appetizers. While demonstrating the preparation of one hors d’oeuvre, he indicated, “The pickled onion in this appetizer is what makes all of the difference.” Immediately I “tasted” the pickled onion component (or at least how I imagined pickled onion would taste in this canapé). I wanted to taste this appetizer. I was mildly jealous of those who had or would.

 What does thisAmuse Bouche have to do with organizations? In Canada and elsewhere, several companies (usually with an HR focus), dedicate resources to producing annual lists and reports about the “best companies” or employers to work for, either nationally or by city. I devour these lists for insights when they are published.

 Generally awarded placement on a list is a result of companies deciding to submit an application, with an aggregate of responses by employees about what makes their organization great. Although many of entries from “top” companies focus on the usual suspects (opportunities to advance, generous and tailored continuous learning budgets, organizational focus on CSR, mentoring programs, etc.), sometimes the featured “benefit” in the published report appears relatively small in the smörgåsbord of work life. The all-staff, complimentary “beer cart” that rolls around each Friday afternoon (at a PR agency) or stationary bikes being available in the work place (at an accounting association), are two differentiators that I can recall in recent lists. Great benefits, to be sure, but in the grand scheme of things relatively inconsequential—except for how “appetizing” they are in the opinion of that company’s employees.

 Figuratively speaking, does your organization include innovative “pickled onion” components? These can be small benefits, unique accommodation or subtle internal or external reference points that separate an organization’s hors d’œuvre menu from that of its competitors. What event, department or individual was the genesis for suggesting and implementing this incremental improvement into the mix? How or why was it embraced? Are they permanent additions to the menu or limited-time offerings?

From a kaizen perspective, if an appetizer-sized benefit is something that differentiates a company (internally or externally), is there any value in observing and discussing what others are “serving up” impeccably or uniquely, if the end result can only be an imitation, watered down and lacking originality and creativity?

 I think so.

 To quote from Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth (written in 1998):

 35. Imitate.

Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

May a tasty little #kaizenblog chat be served on January 28thbon appétit!

 What are some small but tasty features, benefits or practices in a business that delight?

 At what stage does an appetizing insertion have the most effect?

 Are there some segments of publics (internal or external) that warrant a canapé offering not served up to all?

(From a public relations perspective) how and where can you spotlight these offerings into your organizational narrative?

*If you would like to discuss these questions and how something small can really make your business big, join us for #kaizenblog on Friday, January 28th at 12pm ET/5pm GMT/9am PT.

Image: Amuse Bouche