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The Kondo Method takes the business world Continuous improvement for all

Published February 6 2023
Yves Durocher, Practice Director
Yves Durocher
Practice Director
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Would you keep your champagne glasses on the most accessible shelf right next to the stove? “No, of course not, that’s where I keep the plates I use every day,” you say. Too many companies put their “champagne glasses” in impractical places without realizing it. How do I help? By promoting awareness of continuous improvement, which creates added value for both the company and each individual who makes it up. 

Continuous improvement: reduced waste 

Having the photocopiers at the other end of the office is far from ideal! Much like needing ten clicks to get to a file on your computer. When processes aren’t fluid, whether the tools are poorly placed, the work environment isn’t optimized or invisible barriers slow productivity, it creates waste in costs, turnaround times and quality.  

Our mission, with the help of the people that give products value, is to acknowledge existing waste and work together to reduce the impacts. Waste can be found in overproduction, wait times, handling, inventory, movement, low quality and poor space management.  

In your kitchen, your utensils are in the top drawer and your pots and pans are by the stove, right? That’s because you’re avoiding wasted movement by keeping the most used objects within arms’ reach. 

In my eyes, it’s important to inform all of Alithya’s employees about continuous improvement. This awareness around waste generates added value for our services. When an Alithya advisor takes on a client, they examine the organization with a fine-toothed comb to identify waste. They might, for example, identify duplicates or setbacks in the client’s system and then propose solutions. 

Time and people: the essential resources for continuous improvement 

How can you implement a successful continuous improvement process? From the start, at least one person needs to have the appropriate know-how. Depending on the scope of the project, this person should have a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Black Belt. To ensure a real transformation, they also need the support and engagement of the employees and managers at all levels or the organization.   

As a Lean specialist, I’m aware of the essential role employees play in a project’s success. They are in the best position to identify the problems they encounter each day. Their input in an important asset for finding the root causes of a situation as the information they provide makes it possible to identify potential solutions. Team leaders and managers play an equally essential role by encouraging employee buy-in and facilitating change. 

When attaining efficiency objectives seems out of reach for a single individual, each person in their own corner asks themselves: “What can I personally do well?” But with a human-centred approach, the process is clear.  

“How can I help?” is the question I ask the most. “Oh, you’re fed up having to crouch down to get the plates you use every day? Have you thought of switching them with the champagne glasses?” 

After assessing the situation, an appropriate budget is set to properly deploy the solutions. Keep in mind that, by reducing waste, we’re making up part of that money elsewhere. In brief, successful continuous improvement comes down to people’s involvement and the time invested! 

The DMAIC method: 5 easy steps 

Marie Kondo popularized the 5S method for kitchen organization. I personally use a five-step project management approach called DMAIC: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.  

We start by defining the problem. We look to understand the perceptions of the people involved and determine the gains to be achieved following improvements. In other words, we clearly identify our sandbox. We then establish the indicators that will allow us to measure the current state of the process or environment. This data gives us a solid understanding of the situation and supports our analysis of the real causes of waste. After that, we improve, meaning we deploy the resulting solutions using, as one example, ideation techniques. Lastly, we enter the Control Phase. Equipped with a communication strategy, the right change management strategy and a control plan, we ensure that the transformation respects the people involved and remains in line with the company’s capacity. 

From the start of the process at a client company, our advisors prioritize the people behind the improvement project. They ensure that all stakeholders are up to speed on the process and ready to play their respective roles. 

Everyone benefits from continuous improvement 

Do as I say—and as I do! At Alithya, we have our own new spin on the old saying. That’s why our Continuous Improvement Practices Directorate provides support to all our departments.  

Waste can be found everywhere. Only a trained eye can truly recognize and identify the causes. After the improvement process, work will be more productive for the company and more fluid for employees. Everybody wins!