Introducing Kaizen Culture: An Instructional Manual Cascading Initiative
Based on personal experience, it will always be challenging to introduce change in an organization, especially if it’s a large-scale one. People will always wonder about and doubt the financial and professional impact of the change being introduced to them. Also, terminologies and jargons end up being perceived as complications. This could be one of the reasons why people who are traditionalists fear facing change in processes and the overall culture of their organization.
Continuous Improvement Is Better Than Delayed Perfection
I only learned about the Kaizen method when I was pursuing my graduate studies. I was fascinated by the way it was imbibed by the Japanese during their economic recovery after World War II. To sum it up, it left me with three takeaways:
- Doing something, no matter how little the impact might be, is always better than not doing anything at all.
- The crux of the problem is the process and not always the people.
- To achieve continuous process improvement, everyone must participate.
Now, in our corporate setup as an administrative support specialist of a state-owned bank, our unit has been bombarded by tons of paperwork. This is because we act as the HR business partner of the bank, and our customers are the employees themselves so they are more internal in nature. We want nothing more than to satisfy them, via efficient service, in the following facets:
- Hiring and promotion
- Travel orders for official business
- Learning and Development
- Administrative issuances/orders
- Procurement/supply management
- Other HR-related and administrative requests (assigned from time to time)
As we operate in the abovementioned facets in the best way possible, we inevitably have hurdles and downsides. Some of these are requestors bypassing approving authorities, inappropriate use of grammatical construction (e.g., incoherent, inconsistent) in official communications, late endorsements of requests, slow turnaround time, and unfamiliarity with existing organizational policies.
Sad to say, the problems mentioned above result in dire effects on our unit’s resources. As observed, on average, we are using up two reams of paper for printing per day, and the ink cartridge had run low after just one and a half months. Likewise, miscommunications in relaying policies proved to be drivers of delayed transactions. These prevailing issues may be perceived to project low-to-moderate impact, but if these matters remain out of sight, they can entail heavy costs to the organization, eventually.
Implementing Kaizen Culture Via Training
To douse this impending fire, our team came up with an idea to identify the root cause of the issues and we unanimously found that it was the process per se. So, we crafted an instructional manual for HR-related and administrative matters, which acts as one-stop reference material for our counterparts in the Head and Provincial Offices. The manual is composed of six chapters, covering the facets of our services. Each chapter contains an overview, process description, list of documentary requirements, reminders, and process flow maps.
After the initial drafting of the manual, our team decided to cascade the contents of it to our proposed participants and eventually got the support of the senior management. We did the cascading through an online 3-day, non-consecutive, session (via Microsoft Teams) with 55 participants, composed of technical, executive, and administrative assistants. Our team served as resource speakers in the cascading activity. Our effectiveness was measured using a Likert scale (5–Outstanding, 4–Very Good, 3–Good, 2–Fair, 1–Poor) to assess the discussions. Below are the obtained ratings:
Topic Average Speaker Rating
- Hiring and promotion: 3.98
- Learning and Development: 4.07
- Travel-related matters: 4.19
- Administrative issuances: 4.19
- Procurement/supply management: 4.21
- Other administrative requests: 4.18
Based on the responses, our team received ratings ranging from 3.98 to 4.21. This has an equivalent adjectival rating of “Very Good”, except for Topic 1 which only garnered a “Good” rating. On the other hand, as the program is graded, part of the requirements is the conducting of pre- and post-training tests, composed of multiple-choice and true-or-false questions. Based on the results (n=55), the participants obtained an average score of 24 (or 58.50%) out of 41 items for the pre-training test and 32 (or 78%) out of 41 items in the post-training test. The increase in scores evidently showed that there was learning gained, at 47%.
As observed, our team’s initiative and effort somehow impacted some improvement, at least on the part of the participant’s knowledge of the policies and processes. Kaizen taught us that continuous improvement is a collaborative effort and to be able to establish such a culture, everyone in the organization must be engaged to participate, and that’s what we did.
As for the other issues, we have been addressing them little by little, as the manual continuously undergoes updating, owing to intermittent changes in the directives of the management. Nevertheless, the promise of introducing Kaizen culture is already set in place. Things may be far from perfect for now, but the positive mindset impregnated into the proposed changes is already an achievement that is a better milestone than exceeding perfection.