Is a goal challenging you? Kaizen it!

As we race towards the end of another year, hopefully your business (and personal life) have been able to celebrate a number of goals reached throughout the year.  This is a time of year when conversations get a little more strategic as we look forward and reflective in terms of what has and has not been achieved.   When it comes to misses, often there a couple items or goals that are not new to the list.  The repeat offenders.  Does this sound familiar?

 The amount of detail that is put into setting and tracking goals varies dramatically.   Often goals are destined to fail not because they weren’t achievable but because they never really were defined in a manner that made them attainable.   Saying you’re going to do $10M in sales is not a likely outcome until you have defined the steps on how you’re going to get there.  It needs to be a SMART goal.

Usually the more thought and detail that is put into achieving a goal the higher the probability of achieving it.   But it seems like there is often one or two goals that routinely get missed and there is never a clear reason why they were not achieved.   They just end up on a list of future goals and objectives where they very likely will get pushed forward the next time they are reviewed as well.

You’re probably familiar with the word Kaizen.  It’s a Japanese word that means “continuous improvement” and it defines a way of thinking.   Toyota is considered a pioneer of this type of manufacturing and Kaizen is the foundation of the Six Sigma and Lean Movements.   Pretty much every business would benefit from the addition of implementing some of the principles tied to these practices.    

The idea is to be continuously looking for the bottle neck that is preventing you from doing something, faster, more efficiently, and better.   Companies that really embrace this methodology use a structured no-idea-is-a-bad-idea approach by intentionally dissecting different segments of the business to uncover bottlenecks and figure out how to improve, reduce, or remove them all together.  These are called “Kaizen Events”.

Kaizen a Goal?

If you’ve got a goal (or two) that keeps getting pushed forward, maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper.  Stop the insanity of repeating the same process and hoping to get a different result.    Instead really dissect the goal with your team or a group of your peers.   Find the bottleneck and make the necessary adjustments.   It may be that your SMART goal was missing a key metric you overlooked because you were were too close to the situation when you established the original goal?   

The end result is something will change in your path to achieving the previously elusive goal. Maybe the goal itself was an unattainable number?  Maybe you’ll uncover a step that was being missed that is key to the progression of the reaching the goal?  Maybe it’s a training issue?  A marketing issue?  At this point who knows.  That is the power of the Kaizen event – it will push you and your team to look at things differently.

One of the secrets to a successful Kaizen event is to not start the process with preconceived notions on where the bottlenecks are at.  So if you’re going to perform a Kaizen event on a goal you have been unable to achieve, enter the discovery process with your eyes wide open.  Include some individuals that are not too close to the, so far, unattainable goal.   The outside eye will bring a different perspective.  It’s understandable that the sensitivity of the goal could potentially limit who may be part of your Kaizen event, but extending the conversation beyond those who have been closest to it is usually beneficial.  It can be difficult to see the forest for the trees… Good luck!

How about you?  Have you set some goals that keep getting missed and no one really knows why?  Do you find yourself in a cycle of rinse and repeat on certain goals? Would you give this approach a try?  As always, we value your comments in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach