Kaizen Consulting in a Non-Kaizen World

22 Apr, 2024 | By Nita Naidoo

Part of my career in kaizen consulting is introducing systems of continuous improvement into organizations that need (and want) them. Every so often, I’m reminded of how kaizen could be used to introduce improvement in other areas—in this case, government.

As a US-born citizen now living in Canada, also working in Europe & Asia, I recently found myself amid a bureaucratic nightmare of inefficiency. The challenge was securing birth and identity papers.

Like many organizations, governments in both the US and Canada tend to gravitate towards policies of controllership, conformance, and compliance. The emphasis is not on the customer—the people needing service- but rather on rules and regulations. This often means a labyrinth of approvals through extensive channels, complicated policy, and little follow-through—because it’s often so hard to tell where an issue has occurred or who’s accountable.

In contrast to kaizen, where we work to set up systems and introduce continuous improvement, value, and engagement through controlled tests, many organizations are resistant to change, allowing delays and errors to snowball.

Particularly in systems of government, where efficiency is often measured by input and output, systems are hampered by indecisiveness and risk aversion.

Case in point: I had a document that needed authentication. The promised turnaround was 30 business days. It felt a bit outrageous for a document check and a stamp, but options are limited when the government is involved. Sadly, days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Seventy-seven days passed, and still, my document languished in bureaucratic limbo. As my patience dwindled, I made several attempts to follow up. For a consultant who specializes in streamlining red tape, it was an exercise in patience. In the end, the total turnaround time was 91 days!

When a second document required authentication, I was reluctant to even begin the process. This document needed to be sent to a different country, and the promised turnaround was once again 30 business days. However, to my surprise and delight, everything was completed in 11 days.

Why? What was the cause of such discrepancy for the same work? For a business working in a competitive market, failing to live up to expectations and promises would lead to terrible losses as customers would almost certainly flock to competitors.

When the need arose a third time, I wondered what the wait would be. However, the third government agency used a streamlined document receipt process and was able to fulfill my request in less than two days.

Consider the difference for the same work—91 days, 11 days, and 2 days. What did the last branch do differently? I can’t say with certainty, but they’ve likely taken the time to consider what their end users need and the minimum steps to get it done.

Like governments, many business organizations suffer from delays with a bureaucratic middle wrapped in a stranglehold of expectation and adherence to outdated policy regulation.

This is where I step in. Kaizen is about finding new and better ways to maintain compliance through methods that often lean on digital to make processes more streamlined and faster. Not everyone understands the benefits of kaizen, but it’s a way to increase system value and improve service delivery for any organization in any industry. It is a measured, calculated system that anticipates customer needs through testing and scenario planning.

Leaders who recognize symptoms like inefficiency, delays, and excessive time waste in their organizations don’t have to panic.  However, it is important to acknowledge that challenges will not address themselves. Kaizen consulting is about understanding operations—where weaknesses occur and processes fall apart—and then introducing solutions to address them and keep improving.

Missing a deadline by forty days is a failure in any organization. Businesses that need to stay competitive don’t have such luxury.

Kaizen Consulting

Let’s talk about your challenges, goals and how Kaizen Consulting can unlock excellence in your organizations. Call Leslie at 416.528.7990 for a free consultation about kaizen and what it can accomplish for you.