The Fast Track to Change

Here’s a hypothetical situation. Company A has been experiencing dropped calls in its customer service department. This has led to an increased number of customer complaints. To handle this, the customer service department’s overtime hours are going through the roof. As you can imagine, this is costing Company A a lot of money not only in overtime, but in lost customers. What should Company A do? There are two options. They can choose a traditional approach to problem solving or apply the Kaizen method.

Here is how this problem will be solved using a traditional approach:

  • A committee is formed to analyze the situation.
  • The committee will take several days or weeks to determine the root cause of the problem (meetings are required, committee members all need to be involved, and their schedules need to be coordinated).
  • Once the problem is identified, the committee will reconvene to determine how to correct the problem. Recommendations will be proposed and agreed.
  • Recommendations will then be presented to management for a decision.
  • An implementation plan may be written.
  • An implementation committee will implement changes.
  • Employees will be advised about changes and they will be expected to adapt.

Using the Kaizen method, this is how the problem is solved:

  • A multidisciplinary team (from across the organization) is formed to analyze the situation.
  • The team meets over a five-day period to conduct its analysis, make decisions, and implement changes.
  • Since the team is multidisciplinary, adapting to change is seamless: Employees have been involved since the start.

There are two key differences between these two methods. The first is that in the traditional method, it can take several weeks to months to implement change; whereas, the Kaizen method sees change implemented within days. The second key difference is in change sustainability. In the traditional method, the process is typically “closed door operations” until a solution is determined and only during (or after) implementation are employees informed or involved. In the Kaizen event, employees are involved from the start, so change is much easier to sustain.

If you were Company A, which method of problem solving would you choose?


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