Kaizen – Continuous Process Improvement (E)
What is the Kaizen? What is the precondition for successful Kaizen? What are the biggest obstacles for Kaizen?
Posted: Mar 2008
It is said that at one Toyota factory there are million suggestions received from employees every year. So the question is: How the management of the Company can handle so many suggestions? The answer is simple: they do not handle these suggestions. Instead, they organized all employees in a groups of approximately 5 people. If one member of the group has the idea, that person presents it to the other members of a team.
If the Idea is adopted, they simply go with it, without need for further approval. The exception could be the situation when the Idea requires a large investment. This process of continuous process improvement is called Kaizen.
This is an example of bottom-up system of continuous process improvement. This is the way that is generating a huge pool of ideas that can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization. Kaizen encourages the concept of worker empowerment. Kaizen is the management approach that recognize the potential of workers and does not require managerial approvals for process improvement initiatives.
This is the system that greatly depends on the cultural setup of an organization. If the management of an organization assumes that workers are lazy and incompetent, so there is a need for a strong controlling mechanism, then the Kaizen is not possible.
The concept of Kaizen is process change and improvement through the large number of small steps. This process improvement is ultimately leading to a competitive advantage of an organization. This means that an organization will be more productive at the lower cost. At same time the primarily job of managers will not be to find small process improvements, but to be focused on bigger changes.
The principle is the same for the whole company, but is mostly referred to shop level of the company. The focus is given on making better things instead of making things better. Kaizen requires dedicated, empowered and multiskilling workforce that operates with minimum of direction and approval mechanism.
The Kaizen requires advanced stage of networking. Teams need to be formed in quickly, and they need to start with they work in short time. Networks of people who share common experiences and problems need to be encouraged. Mostly, these groups are creating a new ideas and initiatives. Also, they overcome obstacles in a creative way.
In general, sharing of ideas and Best Practice solutions is very important. Unfortunately sharing of ideas is not always the case. It is the imperative to find the way to integrate the energy and creativeness of individuals into the network of people who deal with same problems.
The Fishbone Diagram ( or Ishiawa Diagram ) can help in Kaizen analysis.
Within every organization there are several restrictions that resist to Kaizen-like process improvement. The most common is Silo-thinking, which may be inter departmental or inter company, for organizations that operate in more countries. The common obstacle is concern about additional costs that may appear. Process Improvement frequently requires investments needed to conduct the change that will improve organization's efficiency. Finally, there is resistance of some managers to loose the control over the processes.
Kaizen is not something that is easy to implement. First it must start from the top and gradually to transfer the logic of the whole concept to the lowest level. The Kaizen is a continuous process improvement that needs to be encouraged. Today, every organization is faced with rapidly changing environment, market and consumer’s preference. Only the organization that is capable to transform quickly can stay competitive. The Kaizen is definitively the process improvement concept that can support this transformation capability, therefore it should be introduced and supported.