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Have You Seen These KaizenBiz Posts?

Some of you may know that I lead a chat on Twitter called #KaizenBiz (It used to be called #KaizenBlog). But if you didn’t know, let me introduce you…

What is KaizenBiz?

In brief, we discuss (yes, in only 140 characters) various business topics every Friday at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. This worldwide chat uses the concept of Kaizen while exploring business ideas. The mission of chat is to apply critical thinking to various business topics, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding. We do this within a community that enjoys connecting with one another through conversation online and off.

Come over and visit

These are our most recent posts so please read and share your perspective:

Please read, comment and join us on Fridays at 12pm ET on Twitter. If you would like an idea of what the conversation is like, here is the transcript from this past Friday’s discussion, “Why Doesn’t Everyone Have Effective Teamwork?” I hope you’ll join us soon!



What Is #kaizenblog Today?

#kaizenblogWhen I  joined the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog as co-host with Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge), I knew I was in for something that would stretch and engage me. Valeria and I share a passion for exploring ideas and wanting to discuss them with others to see what else we could discover. Another person, Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI), was (and is) a key supporter as I accepted the role of chat host. Caroline is also passionate about engaging with people and ideas and urged me to step up. When Valeria passed the baton to me, it was the right time to make the chat my own.

But the chat isn’t just mine

It’s really stone soup. You know that folk tale? To be fair, the #kaizenblog community is a much easier and more generous crowd. I find interesting topics, intriguing guest hosts, craft discussion questions and then it all comes together during the discussion when people add their expertise and insights.

The underlying foundation Click here to read more »


Tiny Bites of Differentiation, Feeding the Business Body and Soul

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


What Can Kaizen Do For Your Business-#kaizenblog recap

Using Kaizen to Improve BusinessWhat does “continuous improvement” mean to you? It is often said that the most successful executives and small business owners are the ones who are curious and constantly learning. It can be like a hunger. Even when something is successful, it is not unusual for this person to wonder what really worked and why did it work so well. It often leads to an evolutionary process within the organization.

It is my privilege to facilitate a conversation every week on Twitter that has people who are looking for ideas, inspiration and strategies that will deepen their self-understanding as well as how they perform in their work. This chat is #kaizenblog. The name is a mouthful (and sometimes a tweetful). Amber Cleveland suggested after a chat that we talk about kaizen as a topic.

It made sense to stop and review the concept that underlies every topic we discuss. While our long-time members benefit from a review, it’s also a great way for new members to discover kaizen for themselves. Maybe even imagine how they can explore it more and add it to their own processes at work. For the complete transcript, you can read it here Transcript for #kaizenblog – KaizenAndYourBusiness

The framing post, Could Kaizen Improve You and Your Business, began the conversation with a brief definition and a suggestion regarding how it might be used every day. However, it’s always more interesting to hear how the #kaizenblog community thinks about the topic.  As I tweeted at the beginning of the conversation, this chat uses critical thinking in how we approach our topics. This is one part of kaizen. The hope is that you take the ideas with you and apply to your business.

Joe Sanchez led off the discussion, “Kaizen within the enterprise sounds great but can be challenging to implement b/c resources (ppl and time) are needed. Maintaining and growing an enterprise kaizen initiatives requires seeing biz values from it & recognition for ppl involved.” This led to an interesting side thread about Six Sigma and its comparison to kaizen. But Joe’s point leads to the first discussion question, What role does continuous improvement play in your organization?

  • Patrick Prothe “Continuous improvement is baked into all we do – re-evaluate, measure, recap and move forward.” When asked for examples, “RE: Examples – via our yearly planning, monthly dashboards showing Yr on Yr, recaps of initiatives, continual review”
  • Lois Martin “–Just as you work your abs, ABB — ‘Always Become Later’ “
  • Tanja Ziegel  “Kai=change, Zen=good (for the better) And it needs to be continuous. And it’s a little things that make a big difference.”

The challenge to kaizen is that its focus is holisticSince, Kaizen favors both short-term and long-term thinking, How does the shift from short-term thinking to long-term thinking happen in real life? Judy Gombita shared a story that brings home this balancing act. “My intro to kaizen was a keynote speaker at an @iabc conference. Japanese company was moving into producing bread machines. But first the engineers were sent to work in a bakery, learning how to “feel” and make bread from scratch…”

  • David McGraw “Requires a shift in ones mindset from quick fixes to incremental improvements that build on each other”
  • Parissa Behnia “a2 when it’s obvious youre throwing good money after bad in a bandaid macguyver way”
  • Joe Sanchez “A kaizen initiative can begin w/ an informal Cmty of Practice focusing on a business function or process. Making an informal kaizen grp’s recommendations actionable is when that informal grp may be come formal one. Need 2b prepared.”
  • Patrick Prothe “RE: Q2 – you have to make room for long-term thinking – too easy to focus short term; Must be conscious”

With the side thread comparing Six Sigma and kaizen going on in the background of this chat, I asked, Would you say that kaizen uses a less rigorous process? Would that make it easier to implement?

  • Parissa Behnia “six sigma is too theoretical kaizen seems to be more human real sort of process improvement because it’s okay to be creative”
  • Tanja Ziegel “I think ‘human’ is the key element in kaizen! Remembering that, when all is said and done, you are dealing with PEOPLE”

Despite the ease and attraction kaizen might have for an organization, When would it not be appropriate for an organization to use kaizen?

  • Judy Gombita  “A3. Something that has requirements dictated by a third-party. e.g. audited financial statements. Not really kaizen friendly!”
  • Tanja Ziegel “The first step is looking at your biz, determine what adds value/what does not. I think every biz needs 2 take this step. In order for kaizen to really be most effective, it should be practiced by EVERYONE in the organization”
  • Joe Sanchez “Kaizen can and should b linked to other enterprise disciplines like #riskmgmt. #km, and #changemgmt / #changeldrship

While the practices of kaizen can be modified to fit an organization that may not have complete say over its practices. It became clear in this part of the discussion that a conscious decision and action plan are necessary. Otherwise kaizen will be treated as something that has been imposed on the employees of the organization. In other words, everyone agreeing to use the philosophy and practices of kaizen is crucial.

One of the criticisms of kaizen is that it is a slow process by design. Since long-term goals and incremental learning key pieces of this philosophy, businesses could lose their focus. How could the incremental nature of kaizen allow organizations to slack off?

  • Parissa Behnia “It’s mistaken for business as usual…needs critical eye”
  • Judy Yi “When we ask people to contribute, we need to understand what we are truly asking of them. What do they bring to the table.”

Application of an idea is a key part of the #kaizenblog and it is a hallmark quality that successful professionals are inherently learners. What would happen if you applied more kaizen to your business/work (be as specific as you can)?

  • Patrick Prothe “Since reading Switch, keep coming back to framework (Direct Rider, motivate eleph., shape path) for fueling Kaizen processes”
  • Richard Becker “A5 Applying more kaizen in orgs ensures the succession of proven processes beyond knowledge base of the individual”

Although the topic was about kaizen, this topic seemed to invite people to examine organizational philosophies and how businesses are less reactioary when everyone has agreed to one philosophy. One of the beautiful parts of kaizen is that there isn’t a prescribed way to do it. Simply, how do you examine, discuss and implement processes that support each individual in the organization to be more effective? It could be inspired by a book or a new initiative. It becomes possible to tailor to fit each organization’s style, culture or operating style. What’s evolving in your career and in your organization?

How would you answer the discussion questions?

How do you critique kaizen?


Could Kaizen Improve You And Your Business?

Ever heard a term used in a discussion and thought, “just what does that mean? Am I supposed to know that already? Everyone around me is nodding their heads like they know. If I ask, they’ll know I don’t have a clue…” This internal conversation can go and on until you feel completely inept and miserable.

Of course, you could ask someone for the definition. But maybe you’re the sort who does a quick search on your smartphone right in the moment. Or maybe you’re the sort who goes back to the office and looks it up in private. Or maybe you’re the sort who vents to a friend and then finds out what it means.

No matter which method is your preferred one, you’ve engaged with the process known as kaizen. You’ve used the moment to learn something new and enhance your knowledge. It’s a small thing but it’s added to your skill set. When you do this all the time, it is considered “continuous improvement.”

A little history….Kaizen is the Japanese concept that means continuous and incremental improvement. There’s an explanation on Wikipedia that details the development of the concept. “The more interesting part is that “kaizen” is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly humanizes the workplace. eliminates hard work (“muri”), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and learn how to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. In all, it suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity. The idea is to nurture the company’s human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities.”

Sounds good but what does it mean in real life? During a conversation with my friend, Ken, he referred me to a post he had written about continuous improvement. One of his key points was the emphasis on how continuous goes far beyond short-term or mid-term goals. Basically, your strategic plan has to account for various time frames such as quarterly, 6 month, 1 year, 3 year or 5 year.

But to incorporate kaizen, take a look at your operational plan. Think about your goals and objectives. What makes your company money? What are you doing to make that happen? How do you measure your results? Kaizen is usable by everyone from a sole proprietorship up to a larger corporation.

There is a catch though. You have to be willing to be curious and disatisfied with your status quo. So Product A is your primary revenue stream. What would an examination reveal? Now instead of doing a major overhaul (unless it’s necessary, of course) on Product A, what smaller steps can be followed to improve it? Or would it be another system, say the marketing of Product A, that could be enhanced?  Ken put it best, “Organizations that matter understand that continuous improvement is just that: continuous. You don’t boil the ocean, but you do figure out which processes help you excel and shine a bright analytical light on those processes to make them more effective and more efficient. You accept that some of the ways to improve don’t exist yet. You may need to gain more experience first or you might even need someone else to invent a better toolset.”

What could you do to add kaizen to your business?

What does it mean to humanize your workplace?

How would it affect your performance if you were in a learner/experimenter mindset continuously?


Are You a Chieftain or a Celebrity?

Just this month, I joined Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) on Twitter as a co-host for the weekly hashtag chat #Kaizenblog. The focus of the conversation is the big picture of your business and how you strategize and think about it in a more global manner. We meet every Friday at 12pm ET/5pm GMT to discuss topics ranging from designing business plans to evaluating ideas that you want to take to market.

The word, kaizen, is Japanese and is a process in which one seeks continuous improvement in all aspects of one’s life.  Check out this post by Valeria which explains it quite well here.

Which leads us to this week’s topic:

Is the difference between tribes or fans important to your business?

To be honest, I don’t have an answer so here are some thoughts to begin the conversation for this week’s chat on #Kaizenblog.

Seth Godin put this idea into play for most of us. Mainly marketing professionals were talking about this first but Seth Godin expanded the  idea of tribes into a larger conversation with his book, Tribes. He defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” He goes on to challenge all of us to be a leader of some kind. We can lead our tribes alone or as co-leaders. He is really calling us all out to lead a movement.

But I run a business, I’m not an activist!  Oh really?! If you are an entrepreneur, you are more activist than you could imagine! Entrepreneurs are all about changing the world. Take a moment and think what you wrote in your executive summary. I’ve worked with business owners who are on fire about keeping your electronic data secure, teaching young children to love learning, and to support you communicating with others on the Internet. As I write this, I think of current and past clients who are game changers for their industries. Everything they do, everything they create has to be tied back to their value system and executive summary because it is going to change how we know the world.

But are you creating a tribe or a group of fans? Valeria Maltoni at Conversation Agent has a great post of how Ducati has created a tribe that centers around its motorbikes. It made a huge difference when the company was struggling for survival. But what is your story? Who are your evangelists?

If you are a chieftain, what does your tribe look like? Maybe it’s really about being part bard as well. You tell and sing the story of your Big Idea and inspire others to make it part of their lifestyle. You engage in conversation with these aficionados and discover you are inspired as well. The story deepens and has less and less to do with you. It is more about the glue your business is providing with your products and services. The people in the conversation talk with you and, just as importantly, with each other.

What if you are a celebrity? Perhaps this is about personality (not necessarily your personality, remember your business is its own entity) and less about connecting people to one another. There is still immense value in your products or services but it’s handled differently. People become fans because they love what you provide. Inspiration can still happen but it seems more by example than by mutual discovery.

Does it really matter to your business if you have a tribe or fans?

Do you believe there is a difference?

Join us for this conversation on Friday, April 23rd at 12pm ET/5 pm GMT on Twitter by using the hashtag #Kaizenblog. It might be easier to sign into the conversation by using Tweetchat or Tweetgrid. Add your thoughts to the conversation!