Applying the Kaizen mindset to software development

Software development isn’t right- or left-brained, it’s both. Even though software development is a technical undertaking, research has shown that organizations that nurture emotion, art, and creativity tend to foster teams that are innovators rather than just implementers. The Kaizen method offers an intentional way to motivate and reward programmers for thinking beyond the task at hand and generating solutions that have far-reaching impacts.

What is the Kaizen method?

The Kaizen method is a philosophy model which implements constant positive change to create continuous improvement. All these small changes eventually build to produce significant results.

The ten principles of the Kaizen philosophy are:

  1. Let go of assumptions.
  2. Be proactive about solving problems.
  3. Don’t accept the status quo.
  4. Let go of perfectionism and take an attitude of iterative, adaptive change.
  5. Look for solutions as you find mistakes.
  6. Create an environment in which everyone feels empowered to contribute.
  7. Don’t accept the obvious issue; instead, ask “why” five times to get to the root cause.
  8. Cull information and opinions from multiple people.
  9. Use creativity to find low-cost, small improvements.
  10. Never stop improving.

How can this be applied to software development?

The Kaizen method is flexible and can be adapted to any industry. However, since it relies on team members initiating improvements at all levels, it requires a management framework focused on empowering everyone in the organization to contribute versus a top-down approach.

The Kaizen approach can help build a culture of continuous learning, integration, and innovation for both employees and customers. For the software development process, the Kaizen method can be broken down into three: reactive, proactive, and innovative.

1. Reactive Kaizen – seeks to overcome initial problems identified during the software development process.

An associate at Seneca Global used reactive Kaizen to identify that the standard design brief used to launch new products and features was too complex for clients. As a result, our team designed an innovative prototyping tool that enables software engineers to explain the end-to-end design process more simply. This tool boosted solution design signoffs to 100% and has reduced development times by 40%.

2. Proactive Kaizen – looks for ways to improve upon standard performance, such as exceeding client satisfaction targets or proactively improving skills in anticipation of product requirements.

By applying the Kaizen proactive model, Seneca Global recently initiated an innovative process to improve the billing rate for a key client by implementing agile methodologies and conducting regular risk assessments for delivery timelines. During this discovery, developers found a way to eliminate third-party software solutions for the encryption/decryption of credit card payments. This elimination of a third party resulted in significant cost savings for our client. In addition, we implemented a dashboard for our client to oversee and analyze shipment data. This dashboard allowed the client to apply for additional tax waivers from foreign governments through a settlement process.

3. Innovative Kaizen – is the conceptualization and implementation of creative ideas such as developing a new solution or service offering, applying new tools and technologies, and creating a new work product.

By following the Innovative Kaizen methodology, a Seneca Global associate analyzed the process a client used to allocate large orders for shipping via trucks. Realizing the existing process was wasting manpower and efficiency in the warehouse and purchasing departments, he broke up the order quantities more accurately into purchase orders based on the actual capacity of the trucks to hold skids of product. This solution increased the client’s efficiency metric by 50%.

Breaking down the Kaizen methodology into reactive, proactive, and innovative models enables the Kaizen model to be applied to each step of software development. The reactive model focuses on innovation found during development. Proactive Kaizen looks to continuously improve the efficiency of standard processes. Development and implementation of creative and new ideas stem from innovative Kaizen. 

All three of these methods target improvements to be made across business levels that support continuous learning, integration, and innovation for both employees and customers.

About SenecaGlobal

Founded in 2007, SenecaGlobal is a global leader in software development and management. Services include software product development, application software development, enterprise cloud and managed services, quality assurance and testing, security, operations, help desk, technology advisory services, and more. The company’s agile team consists of world-class information technologists and business executives across industries, ensuring that we provide clients with a strong competitive advantage.

SenecaGlobal is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois and has a state-of-the-art software development and management center in Hyderabad, India. The company is certified as a Great Place to Work® and is ISO 9001 certified for quality and ISO 27001 certified for security.