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Kaizen - Continuous Improvement Process


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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 organised all employees in a groups of approximately 5 people. If one member of the group has the idea, that person present 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 improvement is called Kaizen.

This is an example of bottom-up system of continuous improvement process. This is the way that is generating a huge pool of ideas that can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of an organisation. Kaizen encourages the concept of worker empowerment. Kaizen is the management approach that recognise the potential of workers and does not require managerial approvals for improvement initiatives. This is the system that greatly depends on the cultural setup of an organisation. If the management of an organisation 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 is ultimately leading to a competitive advantage of an organisation. This means that an organisation will be more productive at the lower cost. At same time the primarily job of managers will not be to find small 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 multiskiling 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.

Within every organisation there are several restrictions that resist to Kaizen-like improvement process. The most common is Silo-thinking, which may be inter departmental or inter company, for organisations that operate in more countries. The common obstacle is concern about additional costs that may appear. Improvement frequently requires investments needed to conduct the change that will improve organisation'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 as a continuous improvement process that need to be encouraged. Today, every organisation is faced with rapidly changing environment, market and consumer's preference. Only the organisation that is capable to transform quickly can stay competitive. The Kaizen is definitively the concept that can support this transformation capability, therefore it should be introduced and supported.

Laurus Nobilis has 11 years of experience in FMCG business. He has been working in different functions, primarily in Sales Department and Supply Chain. In 2007 he has started the web site dedicated to development of managerial skills and knowledges necessary for running the business.


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