Netflix Uses Kaizen to Change for Good

Peter Jobst, DevOps Consultant and Author
01/08/2016, 02:48pm

When most people first hear about DevOps, they think about production of a product. The concept of DevOps originated from Toyota, as system to make their physical production lines more efficient. When adapted and applied to the IT world, DevOps can offer a new fluidity and flexibility that can be a game changer for businesses.

One concept is known as Kaizen, in Japanese literally translates to Kai = Change and Zen = Good. The guiding principles of Kaizen are that good processes bring good results; and with continuous, small changes comes consistent growth and adaptability.  

Netflix is the most notable success story of this concept. Using the responsiveness of Kaizen, the creative minds at Netflix were able to partner with their IT team to create streaming videosubscriptions, making the old way of renting movies obsolete. While many saw Netflix as a company that came out of nowhere, the reality is, that employing the art of Kaizen helped them look realistically at what their customers wanted and deliver it.

Barry Enderwick, Netflix creative director who went on to found his own company, aptly named Kaizen, said last July in his blog that internally, Netflix was always focused on what was coming next. “The long-term strategy for Netflix was to get ‘big on DVD, then transition to streaming.’ That way we’d have a built-in base of subscribers. Notice that I used the word ‘when’, he said. “We were always thinking about what the next five years would look like while executing the current plan. This was not accidental.”

--break->In the past, changes meant downtime, or the potential for downtime. By embracing the concept of Kaizen and making minor, consistent, incremental changes to systems, Netflix has succeeded in consistently delivering streaming videos on demand, and thus creating a $28 billion dollar business!

According to Enderwick, other companies that are embracing the Kaizen, think ahead concept are Amazon, which was first a bookseller and now sells, just about everything; Uber, which began as a town car service then segued into peer to peer and now delivery; and finally Tesla, which began as a high-end electric car and is now transitioning into an energy company.

Using the concept of Kaizen in business, your IT team becomes accustomed to regularly deploying hotfixes or making changes to code. Members are prepared to solve problems quickly and calmly. First the team assesses the situation by examining the data and accepting the facts. Then they take immediate action to contain and correct root causes of the problem. A team that is practiced in the art of Kaizen will respond in milliseconds, when precision counts, and stay focused on solutions, using the tools they have in their arsenal to calmly get things done.

When one second can translate to millions of dollars, responding with patience will ultimately equal efficiency and speed. With so much on the line, it takes training to pause for a moment and chose those critical next steps. Being practiced at making changes keeps you calm and focused on where you want to go. Companies who have IT departments who follow Kaizen have the agility and ability to deploy rapid fixes and help reduce end user noticing a problem. The results, as seen with Netflix, can make quantum leaps in your business and set you up for sustainable success!



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