Continuing the topic of values that are important to SIPHON, Aled Treharne, Director of Innovation and Development at SIPHON, talks about how we apply the principle of Kaizen, or continual improvement.
SIPHON hasn’t ever stood still. From the day we started, we’ve been pushing the boundaries, trying new things and pushing our people, vendors and products to achieve new things. I think this is one of the reasons we’ve been so successful – we are continually trying to improve and deliver those improvements in a practical and tangible way to our customers. Almost every company I’ve worked with has had some sort of improvement programme – whether it’s informally recognising that there is a better way, or whether it’s part of a Quality Management System.
It was obvious then, that continuous improvement was already part of our DNA and something we could embody in our values. However, we wanted to take that and refine it, to distil it down the very essence of what it was to be SIPHON.
Continuous Improvement: we strive to continuously improve performance every day in our work in everything we do and this is a responsibility and mission for all.
We wanted to emphasise that this was going to be a long-term and permanent component of who we are – that we never reach perfection, but we keep pushing for it every day. The word “strive” fitted perfectly for us in this context.
We also wanted to make sure that people understood that this wasn’t just part of their day-to-day jobs, but actually permeated every aspect of what they do for SIPHON. So, if your actual job is finance, but whilst you’re talking to technical staff, you think something could be done better, your suggestion is just as valid as those within the team. I’m reminded of a tale I heard from a large manufacturing company. A young team member from a different department was on the factory floor and saw something she thought was being done inefficiently. She suggested a change to the manager. However, her change wasn’t practical.
Now in most companies, she would have been politely told that it wasn’t possible and that she wasn’t experienced enough to know that yet. But instead, this company offered her additional training and taught her over several months how the manufacturing process worked. At the end of it, she understood why her original idea wouldn’t work, but instead suggested a modified version of her original idea in addition to two more suggestions that provided over 5% performance improvements in the production process.
It was this spirit of continuous improvement coupled with prioritising our people that we wanted to embody in this value and so we felt it was important to ensure that everyone understood that it was both a responsibility that everyone should shoulder together, but also part of our mission.
Kai-zen (Improvement): A combination of the symbols for Change and Good
Recently, I’ve been reading the excellent The Toyota Way in which Jeffrey Liker details the 14 principles that Toyota have been following for years and has led to the Lean movement. The principle of Kaizen is recalled – kaizen is the Japanese word for Improvement and in this context, it refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO down to workers on the shop floor.
This type of improvement is not intended to be large, radical overhauls that fundamentally change things, but rather a continuous flow of small changes that each bring incremental improvement to the processes and daily work that we do. Nowhere is this more tangible than in our software development team who use the phrase “release early, release often”. By embodying the concept of kaizen in their regular workflows, the development team are able to provide small, incremental changes to the software products they work on, providing rapid feedback to customers whilst ensuring that the features we deliver are in line with the customers’ use of the products.
Continuous improvement can be achieved in myriad ways and we’re always looking for ways of improving our continuous improvement processes (sorry, got a bet meta there!) – how do you ensure continuous improvement in your business?