Monthly Letters Equals Kaizen Discipline
I had just taken over a department and was struggling with understanding exactly what my employees were working on and what their key projects were. Most reporting to me was informal, inconsistent and incomplete.
I was involved in trying to transform the department based on the new company strategies. I actually did conduct an As Is process map session trying to understand who was responsible for what and who completed certain tasks. Quite frankly it was a disaster and I came out more confused than when I started the process. I reflected and understood that I had tried to do too much, in other words my Kaizen charter was way too aggressive. I then did a survey of a few other department heads to understand their approaches to their employees. I found that the more successful ones required their employees to write monthly letters in a fixed or template like fashion. This was in fact sort of a To Be like process.
Then I insisted upon monthly letters for my employees. I created a specific format and encouraged them to incorporate metrics and data into their monthly letters. I wanted them to be focused not only on their personal goals but on our department goals. Initially, the whining from employees was fierce. These letters formed the basis of my own monthly department letter, and served as an accurate record for my employees when I did their performance reviews.
It did however serve a higher purpose. It started to make them think in a disciplined manner which in fact is one of the tenets of a Kaizen. Employees used the structure and metrics of the letters to suggest future Kaizen projects. Soon we had more projects than we could handle and had to prioritize them. This enabled us to have a dialogue on their goals and what they should be doing.
Requiring your employees to develop the discipline of writing a structured monthly letter won’t make you popular. It pays off big time in the long run, and I highly recommend it for it encourages thinking that leads to possible Kaizens.