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Kaizen 5S Implementation in IT Industry

The technology industry has seen many developments and gone through several changes, especially owing to the advancements such as in the domains of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and others.

The technology industry has seen a massive development in the 20th century. It has gone through many changes, developing and enhancing continuously. As “advancement” is the primary motto of technology, there has always been (and always will be) the need to sustain new information, process, and methodologies. In the domains of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and many others, there has been an incremental focus from world tech leaders.

To make such sustenance, many product-based and development organizations/companies have focused on a more result-oriented approach to the output. Erstwhile, some organizations/companies give equal importance to value creation practices within their organization.

So, how are the latter business entities evolving than the former one? What do they do differently from them? How do they make more impact?

The answer is a certain business methodology that allows them to look inward to make the change in process from within and moving towards outwards.

The process is known as the 5S methodology.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the methodology that IT organizations can use to help themselves streamline and improve business processes.

The manufacturing industry has already figured out this methodology and has been using it for decades.

What is the 5S methodology?

5S is a productivity methodology. It derived from the first fice letters of Japanese words — Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke.

(English version — Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain)

The method was originally intended to organize a workspace for efficiency. It’s a framework that emphasizes the use of a specific mindset and tools to create efficiency and value. It involves observing, analyzing, collaborating, and searching for waste and the practice of removing waste.

The 5S methodology builds on every part of its “S”.

The 5S

Seiri – Sort – Keep the necessary in the work area, dispose or keep in a distant storage area less frequently used items, discard unneeded items.

Seiton – Setting in order – Everything shoulace and everything should be in place.

Seiso – Shine – Clean the workspace and all equipment, and keep it clean, tidy, and organized.

Seiketsu – Standardize – Work practices should be consistent and standardized.

Shitsuke – Sustain – Maintain focus on this new way and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways.

5S was originally intended for manufacturing but works just as well in any other domain. (Merges well with IT industry!)

According to the book — 5S for Healthcare by Rona Consulting Group:

The 5S system sounds so simple that people often dismiss its importance. However, the fact remains that a neat and clean healthcare facility:

  • Has higher productivity.
  • Produces fewer clinical defects.
  • Means patients do not wait so long for treatment.
  • Is a safer place to work.” If you are in the healthcare industry, you will realize that these are big benefits that we constantly strive for.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a methodology and a word that was created in Japan. The word Kaizen means “continuous improvement.” It comes from the Japanese words 改 (“kai”) which means “change” or “to correct” and 善 (“zen”) which means “good”.

In the process, the employees of the organization develop new skills and focus on learning more than delivering. However, this constructive approach results in preparing the employees for the long run, at the same time ensuring they meet their set goals.

Automotive giants like Toyota and Canon figured out Kazien’s advantage and started its implementation before anyone. The employees there make 60-70 suggestions every year. They are written down, shared, and implemented. Many of the ideas are not even major changes. But the main ideology of Kaizen is to make small changes to make a bigger impact, thus improving productivity, safety, and efficiency while reducing waste.

Again, Kaizen is not limited to manufacturing, it’s just that they were the first ones to utilize it. The methodology is based on making changes anywhere that improvements can be made.

The Western philosophy has a quote — “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The Kaizen philosophy is to “do it better, make it better, improve it better, even if it isn’t broken because if we don’t, we can’t compete with those who do.” 

5S Methodology Scenario in IT

To give a brief on how 5S can be utilized in IT, we will take a case scenario. Excelling in implementing the methodology is only the beginning, keeping them in a continuous flow is what every team needs to look out for. We will chart out what actions and flow of the 5S process can be taken by IT individuals to set in the 5S flow.

1) Sort

  • Program managers working with various stakeholders to understand priorities.
  • Product owners working on task backlogs to prioritize what’s next!
  • Architects laying roadmaps for what to build next.
  • Engineers cleaning up old code and tests that don’t matter, removing stale build artifacts, recycling unused deployments, discover limitations.

2) Set in order

  • Program managers have aligned stakeholders and have set priorities.
  • Product owners know what is coming next and can communicate about it.
  • Architects have a clear runway where they can collaborate.
  • Engineers can refactor design, implement, and set things to support upcoming business needs.

3) Shine

  • Program managers can identify risk and de-risk.
  • Product owners can evaluate what is built and reprioritize as necessary.
  • Architects can build prototypes and showcase alignment and directions towards business needs.
  • Engineers ramp up improving limitations, creates direction on where the implementation must be for best results.

4) Standardize

  • Program managers identify limitations in processes, create best practices.
  • Product owners identify challenges and shape up best practices for high-quality deliverables.
  • Architects identify inefficiencies in code coverage, tests, reviews, and set up standard practices.
  • Engineers identify tools and technology gaps that hamper productivity and sets up standard practices.

5) Sustain

  • Program managers monitor best practices, sorts and set things in order, and make improvements as necessary.
  • The product owner monitors backlogs, throws away what is unnecessary, and keeps focus on what is required next.
  • Architects evaluate decisions made and improves the runway based on various business and people parameters.
  • Engineers evaluate practices, coding guidelines, tools, and technologies and continuously refactors them for optimal operations.

Advantages of the 5S Kaizen model

1) Lowered Costs

Teams are encouraged to review their work frequently as the entire focus has gone on the iterative development. As opposed to the traditional waterfall methodology, where errors are spotted towards the end of the development cycle, this process saves time and cost.

2) Enhanced Quality

Regular peer reviews make sure there are no errors in the development phase. This methodology showcases accountability to peers, which has proven to work much better than the validation received from superiors.

3) Smart Workforce

Regular work review provides feedbacks, thus making more interaction within the team. More interaction results in more ideas, thus leading to major and smarter improvement.

4) Effective Collaboration

The entire team is involved in the decision-making and receiving of the work in a way or another. Through this approach different problems are met with novel solutions and tackled with new ideas and innovations.

End-note

Kaizen is a philosophy that focuses on delivering the best possible outcome. Also, the goal can only be achieved via contribution from every team member. As a model, the Kaizen approach helps everyone benefit from, like developing new skills, achieving better results, and delivering perfectly functioning products.

If the IT industry were to successfully adopt this eastern concept, then they can quickly improve their competence. They can deliver high-quality products, solutions, and services. (That too in a long run!)

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