The Kaizen Approach To Building Teams

The Kaizen Approach To Building Teams
Discover why it's important to follow the Kaizen method and take the time to build trust and communication in teams before moving into working mode.

Business magnate Andrew Carnegie once said that teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

This means an organization is only as strong as its teamwork. 

Remember, teamwork pairs individual talents into something greater than the sum of its parts. 

This was around the time that the Japanese business approach of kaizen became popular in the US and EU manufacturing industries. Kaizen here means the idea that all staff is together responsible for a firm’s continuous improvement and success. 

Today this approach has gone far beyond its manufacturing roots and permeates all industries. 

But why is good teamwork so key?

The Research Behind Strong Teamwork

Research has shown that cohesive teams have tangible benefits for businesses and organizations, whether operating in-person or remotely. There are factors like reduced absenteeism, less staff turnover, and productivity increases which led to higher profits and more. 

This is because, in a team environment where people feel they belong, they also know that their weaknesses are balanced out by the strengths of their team around them. Ultimately, this leads to projects staying on track, deadlines being met, and a better review of the final product or service.

Here are some other key findings I found of interest:

  • Teams that are diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and other factors often perform better than homogeneous teams. This is because diversity brings a wider range of perspectives and ideas to the table.
  • Effective leadership is essential for successful teamwork. Leaders must create a supportive and collaborative environment, set clear goals and expectations, and provide feedback and recognition to team members.
  • Trust is a fundamental element of effective teamwork. Team members must trust each other to work collaboratively, share information, and support each other.

Without these core ingredients, no team will be able to succeed. 

So it’s therefore essential for every entrepreneur looking to grow their own business to understand what it takes to build effective teams the right way. 

Building Effective Teams

Building an effective in-house team is a time-consuming endeavor. 

It is incredibly rare for a group of diverse people to come together and instantly start producing results - most teams end up going through a few stages of building trust and communication before effectiveness can be achieved.

Professor Bruce Tuckman, an educational psychologist, further broke down the stages needed for teams to form:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing
  • Adjourning

Forming is when the group or team is originally put together while storming is the phase in which group processes start to form through trial and error and the team gets to know each other. 

Norming is when an agreement has been reached on all these roles and processes. This leads to performing, where teams are familiar with each other and what is expected of them and do them to the best of their ability. Finally, there is the adjourning when the group either moves on to a different company or if they’re a venture studio, to the next project.

However, there is a problem with this approach and how companies adhere to it.

The Problem With Rushing Team Building

The trouble is that most businesses want to skip out on the early stages and move straight into performing. 

It's a bad idea to rush a new team into performing immediately after hiring because it takes time for team members to get to know each other, build trust, and develop the necessary skills and processes to work together effectively. 

Rushing a new team into performance can lead to several problems.

To start with, your team won’t be able to work cohesively. New team members may not fully understand their roles, responsibilities, and goals yet, which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. This leads to bad communication, which can result in not only miscommunication but conflict too.

But perhaps the worst offense is the pressure it puts on the team to succeed. Rushing a new team into performance can be stressful and overwhelming, leading to low morale and burnout, and even resignations. This can result in inefficient processes and workflows that may need to be reworked later on - if the company can still survive.

Research has further shown that teams need to trust each other, share a strong sense of group identity, and have the confidence to perform as a team. You can see how this will not be  developed if the company rushes the team-building process.

In short, if your goal is continuous improvement, skipping these vital steps will be counterintuitive and actually counterproductive to the success of your business.

Following The Kaizen Method

The Kaizen method is a continuous improvement process that focuses on making small, incremental changes to improve quality, efficiency, and productivity. It can be applied to building a good development team in many different ways, from defining clear objectives, setting performance expectations, encouraging open communication, and much more.

For there to be an environment of continuous improvement, you need your team to meet regularly on the processes in use and how they can be improved. 

Take that feedback and run with it. 

Encourage collaboration and teamwork by providing opportunities for team members to work together on projects and initiatives. This can help build trust and strengthen relationships within the team, building loyalty and stronger communication between them no matter where they are located in the world. 

This also opens up room to talk about investment in your staff. Provide training and development opportunities for team members. This can include attending conferences, workshops, and training sessions, as well as providing access to online resources and mentorship programs. 

What you get is not only a happier employee that feels more valued but also a new type of expertise for your business.

What Matters Most When Choosing A Team

There are a series of principles and factors that will make someone a good teammate. 

The number one rule is to choose people based on their skills and not just their personality alone, which is why we use the People Analyzer from EOS. Once you have skilled professionals lined up, you can start to worry about how they gel together and get along.  For this, you and the team will need to have set clear guidance on norms and behaviors, and let the culture grow from there.

Don’t forget to celebrate those early small wins. This has been shown to boost performance in staff later on in the business process. Appreciate the people you have - motivate them, inspire them, challenge them - and you’ll see them grow to reach new heights. 

In conclusion, building effective teams is crucial for the success of any organization. This means a cohesive team with diverse perspectives, effective leadership, and trust among team members leads to higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower staff turnover, resulting in higher profits. 

Rushing the team-building process can lead to miscommunication, conflict, low morale, and burnout, and should be avoided. But following the Kaizen method of continuous improvement can help build an environment of collaboration and teamwork, leading to loyalty and stronger communication. It is important to choose people based on their skills and provide opportunities for their training and development. 

And to end off with, appreciate the people you do have and make sure you don’t lose them to someone who will. 

Andrew Amann
Andrew Amann
Building a NineTwoThree Studio
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