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Kaizen is a verysignificant concept within quality management and deserves specificexplanation:
Kaizen (usuallypronounced 'kyzan' or 'kyzen' in the western world) is a Japanese word,commonly translated to mean 'continuous improvement'.
Kaizen is a coreprinciple of quality management generally, and specifically within the methodsof Total Quality Management and 'Lean Manufacturing'.
Originally developed andapplied by Japanese industry and manufacturing in the 1950s and 60s, Kaizencontinues to be a successful philosophical and practical aspect of some of thebest known Japanese corporations, and has for many years since been interpretedand adopted by 'western' organizations all over the world.
Kaizen is a way ofthinking, working and behaving, embedded in the philosophy and values of theorganization. Kaizen should be 'lived' rather than imposed or tolerated, at alllevels.
The aims of a Kaizenorganization are typically defined as:
· To be profitable, stable, sustainable andinnovative.
· To eliminate waste of time, money,materials, resources and effort and increase productivity.
· To make incremental improvements tosystems, processes and activities before problems arise rather than correctingthem after the event.
· To create a harmonious and dynamicorganization where every employee participates and is valued.
Key concepts of Kaizen:
· Every is a key word in Kaizen:improving everything that everyone does in every aspect of the organization inevery department, every minute of every day.
· Evolution rather than revolution:continually making small, 1% improvements to 100 things is more effective, lessdisruptive and more sustainable than improving one thing by 100% when the needbecomes unavoidable.
· Everyone involved in a process or activity,however apparently insignificant, has valuable knowledge and participates in aworking team or Kaizen group (see also Quality Circles below).
· Everyone is expected to participate,analysing, providing feedback and suggesting improvements to their area ofwork.
· Every employee is empowered to participatefully in the improvement process: taking responsibility, checking andco-ordinating their own activities. Management practice enables and facilitatesthis.
· Every employee is involved in the runningof the company, and is trained and informed about the company. This encouragescommitment and interest, leading to fulfilment and job satisfaction.
Kaizen teams useanalytical tools and techniques to review systems and look for ways to improve(see Quality Tools below).
At its best, Kaizen is acarefully nurtured philosophy that works smoothly and steadily, and which helpsto align 'hard' organizational inputs and aims (especially in process-drivenenvironments), with 'soft' management issues such as motivation andempowerment.
Like any methodologyhowever, poor interpretation and implementation can limit the usefulness ofKaizen practices, or worse cause them to be counter-productive.
Kaizen is unsuccessfultypically where:
· Kaizen methods are added to an existingfailing structure, without fixing the basic structure and philosophy.
· Kaizen is poorly integrated with processesand people's thinking.
· Training is inadequate.
· Executive/leadership doesn't understand orsupport Kaizen.
· Employees and managers regard Kaizen assome form of imposed procedure, lacking meaningful purpose.
Kaizen works best when itis 'owned' by people, who see the concept as both empowering of individuals andteams, and a truly practical way to improve quality and performance, andthereby job satisfaction and reward. As ever, such initatives depend heavily oncommitment from above, critically:
· to encourage and support Kaizen, and
· to ensure improvements produce not onlybetter productivity and profit for the organization, but also betterrecognition and reward and other positive benefits for employees, whoseinvolvement drives the change and improvement in the first place.
Fascinatingly, we can nowsee that actually very close connections exist between:
· the fundamental principles of QualityManagement- which might be regarded as cold and detached and focused on 'things' notpeople, and
· progressive 'humanist' ideas aboutmotivating and managing people - which might be regarded as toocompassionate and caring to have a significant place in the optimization oforganizational productivity and profit.
The point is that in alleffective organizations a very strong mutual dependence exists between:
· systems, processes, tools, productivity,profit - the 'hard' inputs and outputs (some say 'left-side brain'), and
· people, motivation, teamwork,communication, recognition and reward - the 'soft' inputs and outputs('right-side brain')
Kaizen helps to alignthese factors, and keep them aligned.
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