Kaizen (改善) is a Japanese term meaning "change for the better", referring to a philosophy and practices that focus on 'continuous improvement' of processes in manufacturing, engineering, supporting business processes and people management. In its purest form it's a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement with its ability to cross organizational boundaries into supply chains.
Kaizen is one of the key principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS) of Lean Manufacture - others include Genchi Genbutsu ('go look, go see') Nemawashi (consensus-building) and Yokoten (moving knowledge around the organization), all of which are at the heart of Toyota's and the Japanese auto industry's growth, which has a deep culture of collaboration internally and with suppliers.
The Japanese manufacturing revolution was heavily influenced by the American W Edwards Deming, who spent a lot of time working there in the 1950’s and ’60’s - Deming advocated that all managers need to have what he called a 'System of Profound Knowledge' which encompassed understanding overall processes, variations and their measurement, and understanding of knowledge and human nature.
Daniel Debow of Rypple discusses above their social software, which is designed to put this type of thinking into more efficiently linking management with what's going on with the people and culture of the business, aiming to enable performance acceleration, keeping projects and people aligned and on track.
'Lean' is a philosophy that considers expenditure of resources for any goal other than creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful. Simplistically its opposite is batch processing. The downtime between each batch is known as cycle time - typically a pause while processes are reconfigured for the next step. Traditional HR performance review processes are arguably the last of the 'giant batch processes', says Daniel, with everything closing down 'while people write essays about each other'.
Rypple is making waves by making the traditional formal twice yearly review process focal period much shorter while enabling greater emphasis on continuous iterative agile development and learning. Basic management skills are acknowledged to include behavior such as making sure you repeatedly praise people on the job right away, and as a manager repeatedly asking for feedback.
Rypple aims to be the enabling platform to facilitate this and many the buyers of the product are managers rather than HR departments. Setting goals, giving thanks and kudos, manager/staff 1 on 1's in private spaces and giving performance feedback are the fundamentals of the product, and these traits are intended in the best 2.0 technology tradition to not get in the way of personal interactions through its user interface.
There is much to like about Rypple's momentum and their thinking around people management, care and feeding. As the chair of the 'People, Culture and Internal Communication's track at June's Enterprise 2.0 Conference we will definitely be exploring the value of how to achieve continuous performance improvement with modern management strategy and associated technologies.