How the Kaizen philosophy applies to my job as a web designer

By valuing your work, you might already be following some of the principles of the Japanese Kaizen method. This interesting method of continuous improvement is known for its implementation at Toyota after World War 2. Back then, American business and quality management teachers visited the country, helped with the rebuilding of its industry and inspired Japanese car-developers to work more efficiently. Today it has literally been applied to any process in any industry all over the world. That sounds flexible enough. So without taking the model too literally, how would a philosophy like this be applied to improve the way I work?

Continuous improvement

On the surface Kaizen (”kai” means change and “zen” means good) is a principle that I noticed I’m already loosely following, even before I’ve heard of it. I’m a big fan of improvement and I try to optimize the way I work with every project I’m involved in. Each and every website needs to be a little bit better than the last one. And I’m always interested in learning new ways to make website creation more efficient, more appealing and generally of a higher standard.

Rules of Kaizen

The Kaizen philosophy can be applied to any process in any industry. While reading the listed principles below you might notice a pattern: Most items are more likely mindsets instead of rules. When you set your mind to improve the quality of your working process, most of the Kaizen method reads like common sense.

1. Say no to status quo, implement new methods and assume they will work
In the fast changing web design industry keeping up with new technologies is a must. Browsers and platforms evolve every day. Embrace changes early and don’t be afraid to try new things.

2. If something is wrong, correct it
Try to tweak out all the bugs in your project before it gets released by your customer. It’s a sign of care and high-quality work. In most web design companies multiple people work on one project. Track bugs and fix them as they come.

3. Accept no excuses and make things happen
Show initiative. Improvement needs to come from somewhere, so it might as well be you.

4. Improve everything continuously
Consider existing workflows, trends and development. Web design industry technologies evolve fast and it is our job to make sure that websites look good on new platforms as well. If something looks wrong, go back and change it.

5. Abolish old, traditional concepts
Out with the old, in with the new. We stopped building websites with tables a long time ago. We stopped optimizing websites by adding hidden text fields and spamming keywords in the meta-description around the same time. Just because it was done in the past, it doesn’t mean that we should do it today. Work ethics and proven techniques are important for the creation of quality products, but quite often old methods just won’t do. So let’s try something new!

6. Be economical. Save money through small improvements and spend it on further improvements
Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where you realize, that a new tool you found works for your team, saves precious time and money. Here at Welke Digital we have a reward system for improvements. So everyone is motivated to suggest a way to save time & money and/or improve the way we work.

7. Empower everyone to take part in problem solving
Consider skills of your coworkers that exceed your own knowledge and use them. It’s better to ask once and fix an issue in 10 minutes, then to spend an entire day trying to fix it yourself. We are all trying to finish our projects as best as we can. And teamwork is a big part of that.

8. To solve a problem, ask "why" five times to get to the root cause. (5 Whys)
Granted, but I don’t think this applies to a lot of problems we have to face while creating a website, but let’s take this example:

The problem: The user cannot complete the sign up form.

  • Why? – The user fails to fill in all required fields. (first why)
  • Why? – The user cannot find out which fields are required. (second why)
  • Why? – The provided feedback does not make it clear enough. (third why)
  • Why? – The user cannot read the provided feedback. (fourth why)
  • Why? – The color scheme used in the form renders the text unreadable to users suffering from color blindness. (fifth why, a root cause)

In short, it’s a matter of asking until you find the root cause of the problem. Often it’s obvious where problems come from, but in bigger projects it’s a valuable way to find the source of a problem quickly.

9. Get information and opinions from multiple people
In our work process we have multiple feedback sessions in order to improve the overall quality of websites we design and build. From design feedback sessions to website-testing and feedback providing. Every step improves the overall quality. It’s important not only to ask your customer for feedback. You’ll get more important feedback from your peers. This is where you learn most to improve the quality of your workflow for further projects.

10. Remember that improvement has no limits. Never stop trying to improve
This might be the most important aspect no matter how advanced projects become or how tight the deadlines get. Always look for ways to improve your projects and the way you work on them. You will be able to save time, money and improve the overall quality of the website.

So how would the Kaizen method improve the way you work? Please let us know in the comments!

Welke Consulting Gruppe
  • Erik de KuijperErik de KuijperDigital & Web-SolutionsWCG


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