KAIZEN™ Trident Tackling Covid-19 and Emerging Stronger – The KAIZEN™ Way

KAIZEN™ Trident Tackling Covid-19 and Emerging Stronger – The KAIZEN™ Way

KAIZEN™ practitioners always term “problems” as a mountain of treasures. Problems are opportunities for improvement. In the path of progress, there always remains an unclear territory which one must wade through. Each of us deals with crises every day in a way or other. Today, the whole world is struck with one – Covid-19. A crisis is not new to this world. It has encountered many crises since evolution. Crises are not separate, contained incidents. They bring many consequences. COVID-19 outbreak is exceptionally different from all other crises. The level of uncertainty is very high with Covid-19 pandemic. The exponential spread of COVID-19 has disrupted normalcy, lives, and businesses, to a greater extent, globally.

The world must bounce back with more vigour, emerge stronger and become more competitive post this crisis. Organizations around the world are coming together to research, brainstorm and innovate as to minimize the impact on the business economy and to limit disruptions to supply chains. Kaizen Institute did some research analysis involving its clients in South Asian and African regions. An analysis of this pandemic evolution leads us to conclude that the lockdown policies are working, and it is expected that the crisis will follow a profile of phases as listed below:

Denial – Detection of the first case until the declaration of Lockdown

Disruption – Start of lockdown till 1st of a week of reduction in daily fresh cases

Resolution – 1st week of reduction in new cases till lockdown officially ends

Reconstruction – Lockdown end till 50% of pre-crisis business recovery

Denial Phase: This is the beginning phase, where cases start mushrooming. Gradually, the reality of having to stop sales and operations begins to dawn. Although one tries to be in the state of denial, the need to close operations becomes a reality.

Disruption Phase: Courtesy, enforcement of lockdown, industries are shut, the economy slows and almost all businesses are impacted. Invariably, every enterprise tries to minimize the business losses & it impacts on the firm and its employees. Exploring the options of working from home, keep the business in action while abiding the rules of infection-control will begin.

Resolution Phase: As the curve of fresh cases starts to flatten, Enterprises enter this phase. They now look forward to the lifting of lockdown. Everyone expects to get back to normalcy at the earliest. Accordingly, the preparations start for resuming & reconstructing.

Reconstructing Phase: While the enterprises expect to get back to normal condition, they realize now that the situation is different. In this phase, companies need to initiate actions to reduce business risks. They have to strategize & execute actions for re-gaining pre-crisis business levels.

Going through the survey conducted by us, it is quite evident that the confidence expressed by the sample respondents are low regarding the current scenario of Economy, Employment and Expectations of recovery. At the same breath, they had expressed that the prospects of coming back with a bang are quite high, post-crisis. If only intentions brought us results, this could happen. 

Pandemic Curve

As KAIZEN™ practitioners, it is time for us to chalk out the road map for the exercise of bouncing back. KAIZEN™ institute is outlining the improvement and preparation activities that organizations can begin to implement, to emerge stronger post-crisis.

KAIZEN™ is all about doing things differently. Precisely, given this scenario, enterprises must work differently to manage this crisis effectively. One must register in mind that the situation of pre-COVID-19 and Post-COVID-19 would never be the same. This crisis will force on us big changes in the way we live, work, and use the technology. The shift in the paradigm must be brought quicker and so are the revised strategies to win over the crisis and emerge stronger.

As this graph depicts, almost all of us are out of the first phase, which we term it as denial phase. Yet, there are few regions where the lockdown is not initiated, although preventive initiatives are taken up with a partial impact on the business. Hence, let us not dwell much into this phase.

KAIZEN™ Institute has evolved an improvement strategy – a KAIZEN™ Trident, one might say, which is temporary for this crisis period with 3 pillars:

KAIZEN™ in Crisis Management

KAIZEN™ in Organization Strategy

KAIZEN™ in Operations


KAIZEN™ Trident

Crisis Management – the KAIZEN™ way: When one wades through the unclear territory, the obvious logical action is to focus on what is in their control. In KAIZEN™ practices, we maintain that results are not in our control, but processes are. Hence, focus on the processes which can yield results. Similarly, in this exercise, one must ascertain what is in our control so that the crisis can be managed effectively. It is the time to take advantage of a free period to Find Opportunities in People Development, Process Improvement & Supply Chain enhancement.

Connect in a contact-less world: Courtesy, social distancing, activities that require physical interactions have taken a hit. However, this has provided opportunities for newer avenues – Digital way. Why can’t enterprises track their plans, actions, status, gaps, etc., through the digital world? Let us create a Dynamic Digital Obeya where one and all can access from wherever they are, track & review their plans, actions on a real-time basis.

Rapid-skill Development: The lockdown has already displaced people and the migrated workforce is sceptical about their return. It might take some time for them to return and organizations will feel pinched with the absence of such a skilled workforce. Covid-19 had also enforced changes in the demand pattern of the customers in terms of demographics and product mix. Hence it becomes inevitable to enhance the skills of the existing workforce by multi-skilling and recruit new workforce. And this development of skill had to be done rapidly as one is forced to race against time. TWI (Training Within Industry) is a time-tested, proven initiative which will come handy for the enterprises here.

Accelerated product development: Post Covid-19, the market is certain to change. Most of the current products might cease to get consumed in the post-crisis scenario. There will be a sudden surge in demand for new products. Therefore, quick launch and ramp-up of new products to meet the market demand must be done effectively and efficiently. Identifying the new product opportunities, reducing the “time-to-market” new products using Lean Product Development/ Lean Project Management is essential.

Bridging the Sourcing gap: Availability of material on time is another anticipated challenge post-crisis. This could be due to material arriving from affected zones, closed shops, or supplies not aligning to the changing demands. Improving the reliability of supplies, rapid searching of business partners is the key. Identifying and finding such business partners using the “Sourcing & Suppliers” model of KBS would be ideal.

Extract cash from Working Capital: As seen earlier, there will be a huge variation in the customers’ demand in the post-lockdown days. This will result in an imbalance of inventory levels. As to fulfil the uncertain market demands and to sustain On-time, In-full delivery (OTIF) to customers, Lean Distribution System is the need of the hour.

Switching to pull-based, high-frequency replenishment loops facilitated by digital methods will be practised in this initiative.

KAIZEN™ in Organisation & Strategy: This brings us now to the second pillar – KAIZEN™ in Organization & Strategy. This is the time to seize the Opportunities to scan the environment & Change Paradigms for Post Crisis, including the need for Remote Work Culture.

Strategy: The most important question that arises post lockdown crisis is “Whether the existing Business Growth Strategy is still valid or need to be revised?” The strategy needs to be tweaked according to the changes happened in the environment. Considering the long-term goals, business strategies need to be reviewed and revisited as to come out stronger & competitive winning over the current scenario.

Hansei (Reflection) on the Current strategy and its results: Hansei is an exercise on finding out “what went well” and “what went wrong” in the actions implemented already.  As we learn from our mistakes, learning organizations conduct Hansei from time and again. It is an exercise to acknowledge one’s own mistake and pledge improvement.

New Opportunities – What sort of changes were forced by the current crisis on the environment needs to be ascertained. Organisations must prepare themselves for the changes happened, must accommodate the changes and steer through it. In normal days, companies do not focus on areas where the ‘effort to growth’ is unattractive. However, post-covid19-crisis, firms must be open to exploring these new revenue opportunities. To drive growth, companies might need to develop alternate channels. Companies must identify white space opportunities that can be tapped and operate there.

Strategy & Performance Management Tool: The strategies need to be reviewed and revised. Planning & deriving an updated strategy should be done based on 4 key perspectives as suggested in the Balanced scorecard. BSC is a strategy performance management tool – a standard structured report, that can be used by leaders to keep track of the execution of activities by the staff within their control and to monitor the consequences arising from these actions.

Hoshin Kanri: Hoshin Kanri, also known as Policy Deployment, is used in strategic planning in which strategic goals are communicated throughout the company and then put into action. Implementation of plan & strategies is tracked through this. It ensures that the goals drive progress & actions across each tier of the organization.

In our first pillar, we have seen in detail, how KAIZEN™ in Organization manages the situation. Strategy and action go in together. In the Organization part, we will be doing the same activities as we did in the first pillar.

Remote Operations: This pandemic is transforming our social and economic lives. It is given us a “new normal”.  The importance of digital collaboration is demonstrated now. It has forced one and all to restructure their business models, not for short-term, but for a long-term purpose.

Develop digital dashboards

Improve Daily KAIZEN™ in working from home

Improve Project Management working from home

Increase employees’ skills/ competency

KAIZEN™ in Operations: Let us now focus ourselves on the Third Pillar – KAIZEN™ in Operations. This is the time for the Organizations to seize the opportunity to prepare for post-crisis ramp-up with maximum efficiency. Exploring shift in the Operating Paradigms about Operations, Supply Chain & Distribution, Improving/ Modifying the Standards and improving the effectiveness are the key areas which will be focussed on this pillar. 

Layout re-design for Social Distancing: Social distancing would be the new norm, post-COVID crisis. Accordingly, the Cell layout must be redesigned after revising Yamazumi and Shojinka. With changing demand, the line must be redesigned for variable manpower and variable demand (flexible lines or agile cells). No need to mention that Standards need to be revised for the redesigned layouts as to sustain the effectiveness.

Start-up Readiness: Post-crisis, everyone would be racing against time. Productivity must increase despite having challenges faced in supply chain and distribution. One must identify alternate supply sources rapidly. Most importantly, establishing market intelligence to anticipate the changes in demand trends is to be done.

Equipment Maintenance: Courtesy, lockdown the equipment would have been idle for a longer period and restarting the same would be posing challenges. This is the time to be utilized for enhancing the capabilities of maintainers/ operators in TPM initiatives. Maintenance plans must be chalked out for critical equipment to maximise the reliability of the equipment.

Resize the Supply Chain: As to adapt to changed customer needs post-crisis, and to release working capital without affecting Delivery Performance, one must realign logistics. This needs improvement of flow in production, internal & external logistics.

Summary: Digital War-room: It is vital to set up and manage this situation through crisis management "War Room" that will most likely be required until the end of 2020. We hope that 2021 will mark a year of growth and recovery, both in public health and in the economy overall. 

While there is a necessity to adopt these forms of working today, we need to be careful about how the transition into this ‘new way of working’ takes place. This needs a big shift in the paradigms. KAIZEN™ Change Management Model effectively does this. This cultural change would be driven by respecting each other’s time (short online meetings), being very clear in communication (as we hardly sit together in a room), managing outcomes by reward & recognition, and using travel to build/ strengthen relationships

Author: N. Gopalkrishnan, Director at Kaizen Institute-East Africa

About Kaizen Institute

Kaizen Institute is the original and premier provider of KAIZEN™ services of Change Management, Business Excellence, Operational Excellence and Lean.

We support companies of all sizes in all market segments, providing them with a sustainable, competitive advantage. Our Vision is Improving the world with Everyone, Everywhere, Every Day – The KAIZEN™ Way. “KAIZEN™ means Change for the better.”

The KI is a global organisation which provides consulting services to companies represented in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East & America. We are currently operating in 60+ Countries for over 30 years

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