Using Japanese improvement philosophy – Kaizen – to challenge your processes

Ever feel like your share plan processes need polishing? In this article, we discuss how to use the Japanese philosophy, Kaizen, to challenge your usual processes and improve your share plan success.


What is the Kaizen philosophy?

Kaizen is the Japanese word for ‘good change’ (Kai = change, Zen = good). It describes the continuous improvement of all corporate functions at all employee levels.

Kaizen is a strategy that encourages collaboration and builds a strong culture of constant improvement.

The core philosophy behind Kaizen is simple: you can always do things better, even if things seem to work well as they are.


How you can make the Kaizen philosophy work when applying it to share plans

How often do you roll with specific processes and ways of doing things because that’s how they’ve always been done? Do you often take a moment to reflect on these ways of working? Are they still fit for purpose? Could you streamline them?

The answer might be — yes, they could be improved, but it’s a huge job, and I just don’t have the time. And this would be a valid response. We are time-poor. But let’s reflect on the Kaizen principles and see how they can help.

There are 15 principles in total, but for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on six that will benefit you. Whilst our core focus is on the communication of share plans, these principles apply to all aspects of managing share plans and beyond.


1. Don’t try to justify the past; start by questioning best practices and always be open to change

We’ve touched on this above.

How successful are you in getting colleagues engaged in your share schemes at launch or ongoing? If the answer is not very successful, maybe it’s time to readdress how you communicate. Changing how you operate now might seem like a daunting task, but breaking your communications plan down might help.

Maybe you reinvigorate the share plan brand first. Ask yourself, does it appeal to your audience? Does the design align with the message?

Once you’ve done that, think about the channels you’re using to communicate. Could managers help more with the support of a toolkit? Would an animation on your Intranet be better than an email?

And what about content? Is it full of jargon and technical terms? Are you finding the hook and capturing attention at the start? See our ‘Before and After‘ article for more information on this.

Embrace change. Don’t fear it. It will often take you to new and amazing places.


2. Do it right away, even if you only aim at the 50 % target

When new ways of doing things come to mind, you should immediately try them and measure the results. If you aim at a 50 % target and it works, to get to 100% is within reach; the important thing is taking the first step.

So, if improving your share plan communication approach is something you want to do, and you decide to make it simpler by breaking it down into manageable chunks, focus on doing one of those bite-sized pieces at a time and measure the success of each. Before you know it, you’ll have upgraded your entire share plan communication process.


3. Don’t make excuses and eliminate the word ‘can’t’

Your mind feels trapped, and you have no idea what your next step might be. All you can see are excuses and procrastination. You need to try and un-stick your mind. There are so many ways you can innovate, improve, and look for creative solutions.

You can look at the situation from a different angle and think about:

Simplifying change – Break huge improvement tasks down into bite-size chunks. This is ultimately what Kaizen is all about. Refer to the principle above.

Cheaper solutions – So, you’ve got a limited budget. What can you do now to improve your share plan communications content? One of the cheapest solutions there is when it comes to communicating is the ability to listen. Talk to your employees and ask them what they’d like to know. How can you deliver information in a way that would get them to take notice? Listen to their responses.

You can present things better – Consider your channels and the way you deliver information. Video or email? Own branded website or dedicated space on the Intranet? Posters or desk drops? What will work best for your internal audience?

Establish new relationships – Look at hiring in extra help and get your internal influencers on board. Perhaps consider hiring the services of an expert communications agency. A fresh pair of eyes and creativity can reinvigorate your share plan communication techniques. And, don’t forget your internal influencers. Who in your business can you form relationships with to encourage buy-in and help you communicate your message? The internal comms team? Influential senior managers? If you can inspire conversations around share plans, it’s far stronger than relying solely on disseminating information.


4. Creativity before capital – you  don’t have to spend money for Kaizen; use your wisdom

Approach the talent within your internal teams. If you don’t have the budget for external help from a communications and creative agency, try calling on internal teams for help. Maybe you have an internal communications or marketing team who can help, or perhaps tackle a rewrite of the content amongst your own team to reduce jargon and create a compelling hook to grab attention.


5. Be data-driven

If you’re challenging the process and want to improve how you communicate, you need to measure the success of your share plan campaigns. If you’re using internal communication systems, you might be going through other teams to access them. For example, the Intranet and emails — if these channels are managed by your internal communications or marketing team, ask if they have access to analytics. You’ll be able to see if your campaign is working. Alternatively, after a campaign, talk to your employees. Hold focus groups or survey them to see how you can improve.


6. Kaizen is endless and you should try to have fun making changes

This ties in two of the Kaizen principles. Firstly, no matter how many changes you’ve already made, there’s always a way to do it better. There’s always a way to improve something. And secondly, if you don’t find fun in changing yourself and improving your organisation, Kaizen is nothing but a struggle and hard work, which nobody wants. With a positive mindset, take pride in the improvements you’ve made and the ability to see everything as a challenge. Kaizen can be fun.


If you feel inspired to challenge the process, please get in touch, and we can help you on your Kaizen journey. Together, we can break your share plan communications down into bite-sized projects, focusing on small steps at a time. This is particularly useful if you’re working with smaller budgets or indeed have a large audience where smaller ‘test groups’ can be used to see if a change has the right impact before rolling it out to everyone. With continual improvement comes great impact and success! Contact us to find out more.

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