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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Small Gains

Betsy WilliamsBY: BETSY WILLIAMS, business development and TRAINING SPECIALIST

If you get one percent better each day for one year, you'll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done. Now that is nothing to sneeze at…what a huge gain! I was so inspired by that fact I wanted to hear from others on why continuous improvement is so important.  I reached out to Richard Wolin, Director of NMC Training Services and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center NL Office; Rob Summers, Senior Training Specialist at NMC Training Services and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center NL Office; and Karyn Ross, Shingo Prize Winning Coauthor of The Toyota Way to Service Excellence; for their take on continuous improvement.

Here’s what they had to say…

What does continuous improvement (CI) mean to you and how do you measure it?

Rob Summers:

Continuous improvement means finding ways to make your work simpler, more efficient, and more robust on an ongoing basis. Businesses who demonstrate a true commitment to continuous improvement will see their problems solved effectively and permanently and will be more resilient to changing market conditions. In a time where labor is in short supply, businesses with a strong CI culture will attract talent more effectively and see significantly reduced learning curves for new hires. All of this adds up to business success, sustainment, or growth of employment opportunities in the region and more fulfilling days on the job for employees.

Richard Wolin:

Continuous improvement is driving out wasted resources from a product, service, or process in order to increase the value of it compared to the cost of time and energy. When it's done continuously, even little improvements add up. Improvement is measured by comparing the value the customer places on it to the cost to make it happen. This can be in dollars, time, satisfaction, and growth in customers.

Karyn Ross:

I actually prefer the word ‘Kaizen’ to the words ‘continuous improvement.’ I don’t think that ‘continuous improvement’ conveys the focus on creativity and ‘making things better for others’ that the word – and concept – of Kaizen does. So, for me, Kaizen means “making things better for others”…making the lives of our customers better through the products and services we give them. Making the lives of our team members and their families better as we teach them how to use critical thinking and problem solving to create better ways…(and give them a paycheck!), making the world better as we figure out how to do things in ways that don’t harm people, animals, or the world that we all share. Kaizen means focusing on making things better – for others!

How do I measure that? Smiles on the faces of customers and strong personal human connection! Smiles on the faces of our team members! Because serving others and making things better for them makes us happy in a way that CSAT or Employee Engagement Scores can never really reflect. And, having a purpose tied not just to making as much money as possible…and seeing progress working toward it. That will be different for every organization! And good thing, because there are a lot of diverse needs – and many problems to solve in our world!

At KRC, my mission is “Help People Improve the World.” I actually have targets for, and track, number of people helped…and I’m always challenging myself to create ways to help more! Because that is what Kaizen is all about!

Sharing is one way of how we grow so let me know what you think about the power of Kaizen/Continuous Improvement. I will share your comments in future NMC Training Services’ newsletters.

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