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Kaizen in Office

Kaizen in Office is not difficult to implement. The most critical factor is a strong will and commitment. Once committed, all it requires is to use the simple methodology used by the team-based, rapid improvement system of Kaizen, and apply it to the administrative environment.

I am sure you have heard of Kaizen. It means continuous improvement. However, it is not improvement at any cost but improvement that eliminates waste and creates value for customers. I have seen a number of offices (head office, branch office, back office, front office) where people are more worried about systems and procedures than rendering service to customers. It is possible, even with a one-person office to get motivated or to motivate employees to focus on creating a rapid flow of value to the customer in each Value Stream by focusing on eliminating waste. Office Kaizen is a powerful system for improving productivity, reducing lead-time, and sustaining results leading to business gains.

I know you may feel this is lot of jargon. Let me give you a simple example. To find out waste and separate it from junk, start asking yourself the following question. Why am I (or why are we) doing this? What is the process through which it flows? Can this be done in a different way? Mind you, we are not talking about a better way - as yet. That is the next in line question. Just concentrate on waste first. You may ask – am I wasting space and time? Theoretically, there are 7 types of waste but they are related to either one or both mentioned above.

Now let me take one resource and see how waste can be eliminated by using features available in Outlook. This resource is time. Time coupled with other resources becomes cost and hence is likely to be turned out to be waste. How?

Just imagine time coupled with money. The time spent in realization of dues from customers can be in the form of late receipt of payment but have you thought of waste in the entire process? This consists of the collection of cheques, delivery to the courier, the internal memo from sales to accounts (to safeguard oneself that the cheque was in fact handed over to accounts), processing of documentation about the amount, invoice number and so on. Sure this process is essential but have you ever paid attention to the time wasted at each step? Track each step on your Outlook calendars and then export the task to Excel to do time calculations.

A glaring example might be the way DoT processed payment receipts from their customers about a decade ago. Pune Telecom used to take anywhere between 4 – 10 weeks to realize payments received from their subscribers but if you didn’t pay on time they used to disconnect your phone. Even though the collection efficiency is much better nowadays, they could have applied Kaizen to induce customers to use internet-based bank transfers. They do accept bank transfers as a permanent arrangement, but due to their poor track record of co-relating bills to collection customers are reluctant to use this. Due to competition there is some improvement but I have noticed, while observing them as case study, that old habits die hard.

On the other hand, Indian Railways are not beating any drums about this, but are methodically improving their reservation systems, eliminating time and waste and bringing satisfaction to customers. Initially they introduced internet-based reservation, and within a year they have introduced e-tickets whereby customers save an enormous amount of time (and reduce waste) by using the “book and print your own ticket” method.

DoT is an extreme case and Indian Railways is a case which shows how you can make an elephant dance. Now turn back and observe in your own organization, how similar practices might have been followed without your knowledge or you may be too numb to notice it due to prolonged time. When it comes to “lean” it is just not enough to be a self-driven think tank. Involve your staff, they will play major role to increase your efficiency.

MS Office has 2 components that make your task simple to measure, analyze and monitor. Yes, you guessed it right – Outlook and Excel.

Author : Satish Hulyalkar

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