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What are Business Systems?

Business Systems are integrated structures and sets of procedures used to operate the business.  These are best created by integrating methods like:

  • Business Process Documentation
  • Kaizen
  • Kanban
  • Lean
  • Risk Analysis and Mitigation

Table of Contents


There are 3 main aspects of Kaizen. These are:

  • Continuous Improvement
  • Elimination of Waste
  • Standardisation

The History of Kaizen

Post WWII, Japan was a mess, economically, socially and environmentally. A tool was needed to assist them back into stability – a method of improving their business practices to give them a future.

This tool was Kaizen which means “Good Change” or “Continuous Improvement”.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen was initially developed by the Toyota Corporation as a result of their less than optimum manufacturing practices. Quality Circles were created whereby teams of people were tasked to improve Toyota’s methods. They came up with a system of small incremental changes that when viewed over a longer timescale produced major results. A form of compounding interest for quality of process.


Gemba is Japanese for the workplace.

It has a deeper association with walking the workplace or being in the workplace to KNOW the workplace as a manager. The opposite of the ivory tower mentality.

Continuous Improvement

Constant incremental improvement will quickly boost the efficiency of a business. Thee root concept is that those performing the processes know the most about the processes and are therefore best qualified to suggest and test changes.

A suggestion for improvement is raised in a quality meeting and agreed or vetoed by those upstream, downstream or performing the process. If passed the improvement is tested and may become part of the standard procedures, otherwise not.

Elimination of Waste

Under Kaizen, 7 types of waste are identified. These are:

  1. Waiting
  2. Transporting
  3. Processing
  4. Inventory
  5. Motion
  6. Defects/rework
  7. Overproduction

Remember that meetings are a waste in themselves unless short and productive.


Standardisation refers to:

  • Physical components
  • Machines
  • Procedures

The advantage is that people and processes are on the same page and all is predictable.

Standardisation is the core of Kaizen and efficient production. Which is interesting for a system of constant incremental change.

Standard process documentation makes it easy for all parties to understand the way the system works and how to discover how new processes are described.


Kanban is a broad system covering display boards and cards which signal workflow.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a Japanese term meaning “Visual signal“. It has two aspects being display boards (summary) and task cards (detail).

Kanban Boards manage an overview of workflow scheduling by breaking each task into components and displaying them on a board. Use the following columns to show their progress:

  • Backlog
  • Today
  • Under Way
  • Blocked
  • Completed

Kanban Cards manage the detailed aspect of process workflow where cards are used to signal component workflow. They are also key in inventory management and flow.

To produce only what is needed, when it is needed and in the amount needed.

Taiichi Ōno


Lean is a loosely disciplined philosophy that has recently incorporated elements of Kaizen and Kanban. It predated both by several hundred years but has a wider acceptance.

The History of Lean

Manufacturing has a long history of seeking efficiency but suffers from extreme mental inertia.

The earliest recorded Lean processes occurred in Venice in the 1450s at their Armory. Its popularity was boosted by Henry Ford’s production line systems in 1913. The Model T Ford had only one colour – black – and was very slow to change any aspect of the vehicle. It took Toyota to work out how to provide variety in an efficient production line. 

The west has only recently caught on. Elon Musk is the current master of Lean thinking. Tesla has a nearly 15 year lead on almost all other manufacturers.

Lean has seen a number of iterations among which is Lean 6 Sigma which is an attempt to provide a more rigorous structure.

What is Lean?

Based upon the concept of defining value, Lean is a method of improving the efficiency of any process stream. It aims to eliminate waste that does not contribute to the creation of value. The end game is to create zero waste and perfect value and zero distance to the customer.

It achieves this using components of Kanban and Kaizen.


Standard process documentation enables a business to reduce its training costs and allow staff to be multifunctional. A good understanding of the concepts behind the board and card system is mandatory.

Having said that, the systems naturally move toward simplicity and efficiency.

Risk Analysis and Mitigation

Every business has inherent risks and issues.

The trick is to identify them BEFORE they occur so the response can be predefined, considered and documented. Nobody gains when an unexpected event leaves management running around with its hair on fire. Systems exist to identify risks and their mitigating actions.

Standard Policies and Procedures​

The SOP documentation is the true worth of the business. It defines the way all tasks are performed. A decent SOP is the difference between an Infant Business and an Adolescent business. It becomes process dependent which is role based rather than person based. It is that important.

A business with a documented SOP is worth far more than one without. The buyer has a reference point to run the business and time to learn the business before changing it. The absence of a defined SOP creates little more than a non-productive job. You have the need for constant micro-management.

Keep Policies to a minimum – they only end up informing staff how bad they can be before being shown the door. Policy is best stated as “Use your common sense!”.

Successful and sustainable businesses have documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that are readily available to the staff members to reference.

Staff understand the SOP and use them. This gives the owner a chance to work ON the business instead of IN it.

Staff understand their procedures and can perform them without constant direction. You can go away for a time and return to the business to find that it has run properly in your absence. Self management is empowered by documented procedures.

The SOP is a living document – when someone discovers a better way to perform a task, the new procedure is documented after testing and becomes the standard. The relevant staff are trained in the new way and so it goes – classic Kaizen.

Consider this – the time needed to document each procedure is considerably less than the time to instruct staff members each time the procedure is to be done.

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