The Japanese word of “Kaizen” can be defined simply as seeking continuous improvement. Let’s examine how we can improve upon our level of customer service.
Modern demands and expectations of the citizen customers require that we do a better job of planning for the delivery of fire services. While taking a class titled “Shaping the Future” at the National Fire Academy last spring semester, this was a hot topic amongst my fellow fire officers. The professor asked us all a simple question and I would like to share the discussion with all of you.
The question was, “What operational mindset has your organization maintained over the past few years?”
There were a few answers such as “trained harder and purchased new apparatus”.
There was one answer that struck a chord with the professor. I stated “combat the status quo”!
With a big smile on his face he asked me to elaborate.
You see many fire service organizations have just maintained the status quo for so many years that they have become threatened by the concept that the citizens are our customers. This means that society and its service needs are passing the organization by thus creating a loss of our position in the community which can be fatal to any fire department. I continue to state to the professor that the only way to combat this is for both the employee’s and management commit to not let this happen. It’s imperative that both sides go all in for effective change.
Department Member’s Role in Kaizen
Every member of the department must become a key player and have a seat at the table during the decision-making process as it relates to how we deliver our services to the public. It means that we must go over and above the expectations of the customer to deliver high quality professional care at all times in every circumstance.
In order to do this we must evaluate what those needs are. I suggested an idea for a service delivery questionnaire, not an entirely new concept to the fire service, just new for our department. The responses must be addressed immediately so the citizens know we are listening. We also need to know that we can be trusted to implement such a program without having to jump through tons of red tape. This leads me to the next topic.
Fire Officers Role in Kaizen
Fire officers should adopt the concept of Kaizen and rapidly implement such programs so we can respond to the needs of the citizens more quickly and effectively. We as leaders play an important part in this process by becoming a facilitator of positive change. Identify and encourage our members to practice this new method of thinking. Fire officers who can create and maintain the motivational environment for Kaizen become valuable assets for the organization. Kaizen is not easy, it requires tough mental focus on quality of service all of the time.
Benefits of Kaizen
There are many benefits of Kaizen. It forces us to look at the way we are doing things versus how we have always done them. It will make the fire service more oriented on the customer by meeting or exceeding their expectations. Kaizen will start the process of positive effective change within our organizations, and seeking continuous improvement will become the new status quo!
“Control your own Destiny or somebody else will” Jack Welch
(Cover Photo Courtesy: Brett Dzadik, Brettsfirephotos.com)