Kaizen (Continuous improvement) should be the first improvement

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Since one part of my job is to help companies to improve, I have had the honor to visit many companies. Most of these companies have a good understanding of Lean and Agile and need very little facilitation from my side to take a huge step of improvement and other are much more tough cases. What most of these companies have in common is the lack of culture and facilitation of helping themselves to improve. Somehow the common knowledge is that, improvement is something that will evolve by itself, only a manager can have the right to do improvements or someone from the outside with a lot of experience needs to come in and help us.

The interesting thing is that most of these companies that I visit do not have any process improvement in their process. I have even been introduced to a project called Kaizen (Japanese for "improvement") that did not mention anything about continuous improvement in their process. This was not due to lack of knowledge or unwillingness from the management, they just didn’t think about it. When I mentioned that they have forgotten about continuous improvement in their process they totally agreed with me but somehow they forgot one of the most important ingredients in their new process.  

So when I start to work at a new company I’m pretty open with that “most likely the majority of improvement that I can help them to implement is their own ideas”.  So one of the first changes I usually suggest is a good way of introducing continuous improvement into their new process, a way to empower the employees to come up with new ideas.

By this blog I don’t want to say that you shouldn’t hire an Agile or Lean coach, rather the opposite. But understand the fact that most of the improvement will come from the people in your organization rather than a coach, the coaches are there to help you facilitate the continuous improvement.

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