Saturday, July 17, 2010

Continual Improvement - Kaizen

At a recent Crown Council Mastermind retreat, I accompanied a group of Crown Council ( dentists as we toured the Phillips Lighting Plant in Salina, Kansas. Salina is the home of Crown Council Lifetime Qualified Members, doctors Guy and Kate Gross and Dr. Ken Guest (

The remarkable fact about the Phillips Lighting Plant in Salina is that it produces 80% of the fluorescent light bulbs for North and South America. Despite the lower labor costs, plants in China have been unable to compete against this powerhouse in Salina. One of the secrets to the plant’s success is their dedication to Deming Management principles, (the current popular term for which is now LEAN Management), especially that of continual improvement.

When Deming taught the Japanese the principles of quality improvement, they were quick to translate the principles into their own language. One word that became part of the quality equation was “Kaizen.” Kaizen means constant and never-ending improvement. It is not just a philosophy. It is a process – a daily process.

As we walked about the Phillips plant, it was impressive to see the Kaizen initiatives that were in progress. Each department had a “Kaizen 30 Day Action Plan” listing the initiatives that had been approved, who was accountable, and what the target date was for completion. Future review dates were also listed as well has how much progress had been made to date on each initiative.

One of the impressive charts present in each department was one that measured how many Kaizen initiatives had been undertaken by that department in the last year and how many had been completed. That visual reminder had to be a great motivator to the team as they saw on a daily basis how much progress they had made.

I am reminded of the team member refrain heard often as everyone files into a regular team meeting: Here we go again – another team meeting where we talk about the same things all over again and nothing ever changes. In some cases that may be true. In others it may be that progress is not as apparent as it would be if progress were tracked and recorded like they do at Phillips.

What is your system for tracking and reviewing continual improvement projects in your practice? How often do you review that list of projects with your team? Do you track what projects have been completed so that everyone can see the progress that is being made?

If you would like a copy of a “Kaizen 30 Day Action Plan” and the associated completion list, just call the Total Patient Service Institute at 1-877-399-8677 or e-mail:

Continual improvement – it is just one more characteristic of a team that is striving to be ToPS.