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We all agree on this: more than ever, now is the time for the scaling-up of the Kaizen. For the non-lean acclimatized, this period should be dedicated to the amplification of improvements.

Remember the roots

To better suit your kaizen practice with the current context, remember its roots. Toyota started to practice kaizen in the aftermath of the Second World War in Japan…Following the two nuclear bombs, the island had lost a large part of its workforce to war, with a limited stock of raw material to build cars and was cut off from the “free” world in terms of international trade… In short, in this terrible context, no one could imagine that Toyota would emerge as one of the most innovative companies in the last 70 years.

When engineers at Toyota were practicing kaizen, they were driven by this motto: “Creativity over capital”. For instance, as they were facing the lack of raw material for building a truck headlight, they developed trucks with only one central headlight. They favored mechanical solutions operating by gravitation rather than by electric drive etc…Creativity over capital!

In the COVID-19 context

Compared to the post Second World War Japan, we can easily say that we are in a quiet more comfortable position to innovate, even though we already miss or will miss the resources we had before. Indeed, Capital Ventures are slowing down their funding of our startups, labor is in “chômage partiel” (for the luckiest French), or soon to be sacrificed and the banks are not really supporting (yet?). Anyway, time for abundance is over, even if the fall will not be too brutal thanks to Keynesian policies, we will still have to pay for it.

At OCUS, a company where people are trying day after day to practice lean, the kaizen changed gear. Two things have changed:

  • The less significant one being that due to remote work, we needed sharper interfaces to teamwork on problem-solving. When yesterday chatting, drawing, and facial expressions were compensating messy whiteboard or problem-solving sum up, today people are doing their best to follow the 6-steps Kaizen frame for impactful projects. This allows both the simplification of their mindset, to only present “shaped” thought, and easier step-in from the team leaders & coach to orient & support.
  • The more significant one: the end of the third step (more details here). Once we generate original ideas, we then have to choose the one we are going to test, and we keep in mind the Kaizen’s roots described above to favor the change of the method rather than the product design for instance. We are thinking about thrifty but impactful solutions.

Even if we particularly insist on this key-notion of the Kaizen spirit in the COVID-19 context, at OCUS, we are confident that this mindset will remain afterward. By testing “homemade quick & dirty” solutions before reaching out to the tech team to develop a sustainable & at scale solution, our goal is to decrease the waste and to reduce the lead time of new features shipment that are really solving our clients’ problems.

Forecasting even further, if this crisis rings the end of the cash burn startup dumping, at OCUS we will be ready to progress with methods and team involvement.

Photo credits: ©Benjamin Beech