Corporate Management - CHANGING WITH KAIZEN
by Swati Chopra
MAKE IT HAPPEN FOR YOURSELF1. Discard conventional ideas.
2. Think of how to do it, not why it cannot be done.
3. Do not make excuses. Question current practices.
4. Do not seek perfection. Do it right away,
KAIZEN IS HOLISTIC MANAGEMENTMasaaki Imai, the founder of Kaizen was in India recently. Excerpts from an interview with him.
How and when did you develop Kaizen?
Kaizen is the product of
As the dapper Japanese rises from his chair, there is pin-drop silence in the
conference hall. The corporate types around me regard him with eyes
glazed with adulation. Like them, I expect the august founder of Kaizen,
a management philosophy, to say something profound. Instead, he recounts
a ridiculously funny story. He waits for the guffaws to die down before
pointing out gently: "To adopt Kaizen means to be ever willing
to change, for if you don't, you surrender yourself and your market
to those who do."
That's fairly simple, only that we need Masaaki Imai to bring that home to us. For almost two decades now, he has been in the business of making slothful industries around the world commit to 'continuous improvement through change'. Or, in short, to Kaizen.
In his Kaizen: the Key to Japan's Competitive Success published in 1986 that introduced Kaizen to the Western corporate world, Masaaki Imai defined it as: "a means of continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. At the workplace, Kaizen means continuing improvement involving everyone—managers and workers alike. The Kaizen business strategy involves everyone in an organization working together to make improvements without large capital investments."
The operative phrase here is 'without large capital investments'. Instead of sinking more money in buying machinery or running them for a longer duration, Kaizen veers an organization towards paying attention to small but significant details. Managers are encouraged to improve the efficiency of existing infrastructure instead of investing in more of the same. "And that," says Imai, "can happen only if you are familiar with every inch of your gemba (workplace)".
In essence, that translates into something of a corporate 'back to basics' philosophy. Gemba is where the product is actually manufactured, which could mean the assembly line in a manufacturing plant or the place where employees interact with customers in the service sector. It is "the place where the real work is done", as Imai likes to put it. Yet, most companies pay far more attention to sales, marketing, financial management and product development.
This thought is expressed in Imai's best selling sequel, Gembakaizen: "Gembakaizen is when Kaizen is used in the gemba, for which there are three basic steps—pay attention to housekeeping, eliminate waste and standardize," says he.
The emphasis on the gemba often leads to a misconception that Kaizen is relevant only for lower-rung employees. Rather, it is a strategy that begins and ends with people. It requires the leadership to ensure sustained improvement to continuously improve the company's ability to meet expectations of high quality, low cost products and on-time delivery.
Listening to Imai, I could not help but notice the relevance of Kaizen in areas of life other than the workplace. You merely need to assume your home/relationship to be the gemba. Also, as Imai says, and Heraclitus said before him, nothing is permanent but change. Each individual deserves to improve for the better continually. An ancient Japanese saying expresses similar sentiments: "If a man has not been seen for three days, his friends should take a good look at him to see what changes have befallen him."
So why not work to make that change, whether at work or at home, a positive one?
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Subject: New Management concept - 26 December 2012
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by: Binyam Tegegn
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