What Is Kaizen? Kaizen is the philosophy of using small steps, or contributions, that work towards a big change, or ‘big picture. It focuses on you and me, the individuals that form part of a small business, corporation, and even a country. It encompasses the little things that can be changed by each one of us, on the path to becoming better, healthier, fitter Human Beings.
To be happy, to make others around them happy, to live life to its fullest … These are the top three reasons we seek to continually improve in life. Without happiness, smiling faces around us, and living life to the fullest, what type of life would we live?
Today, I would like to introduce you to a little something called kaizen – many of you may have heard of this before, but to some, this may be a foreign word.
Simply put, it is a Japanese management strategy that can be incorporated into all areas of your life, from work situations to personal life issues and the management thereof.
Roughly translated, it means; “Continuous slow improvement or real change.”
Kaizen is the philosophy of using small steps, or contributions, that work towards a big change, or ‘big picture. It focuses on you and me, the individuals that form part of a small business, corporation, and even a country. It encompasses the little things that can be changed by each one of us, on the path to becoming better, healthier, fitter Human Beings.
This is achieved by concentrating and improving on the little things that with time, effort and consistency, add up to a way of life, creating success almost effortlessly. To get to this point, we have to conquer our bad eating habits, cogitating, lack of activity, and stress.
We have to take small, but steady steps towards achieving our goals, no matter what they might be! We can use the power and effectiveness of Kaizen, to accomplish all of this.
Kaizen is a long-term commitment. It takes a long-term view, and the most important principles are that it is a daily, continuous and steady exercise. It doesn’t matter that massive and sudden improvements are made. Small improvements are great, and it is important that you continually look at ways of making things better, no matter how small. You know the saying, “if it works, why change it?” Well, the Kaizen philosophy suggests that there are always ways to improve things, no matter how small that these changes may be.
We all know that it is better to prevent a problem than to fix one. By incorporating the Kaizen principles into your life, any obstacle to your success can be removed, even if it is one step at a time. Just remember, a thousand-mile walk begins with the first step.
How to start?
You have to start with your mind. What motivates you? What is your reason for wanting to do whatever it is you want to do, be it weight loss, planning a trip, or improving your financial well-being? How will reaching those goals make you feel and how it might change your life?
We have to learn to be patient. This can only be measured by your commitment to your goals. You are committing to changes to improve your life, and this will not change overnight. As they say, Rome was not built in a day!
When you have embraced the Kaizen philosophy, you will not be put off by setbacks but will enhance your vision with objectives based on timelines and measuring your success on a daily basis, by sticking to your commitment.
Well, now it’s time to take a closer look at this subject of Kaizen, through this short journey we are going to uncover exactly what kaizen is, the history behind it, the different types of Kaizen, how to create a Kaizen environment in your home, and much more. Let’s dive in.
The History Of Kaizen And Its Effect In The Real World
After World War II was over, the American occupation forces were asked to help Japan recover from the harsh consequences of the war that the country suffered from. In coordination with Japanese business executives, this team developed new measures to improve business processes, quality, and productivity.
At the same time, the Civil Communications Section (CCS) worked on developing a management training program that sought to teach statistical control methods. Homer Sarasohn and Charles Protzman developed and taught this course during 1949-1950. Sarasohn recommended W. Edwards Deming for further training.
The Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) was also assigned with the task of improving Japanese managerial skills, and Edgar McVoy brought Lowell Mellen to Japan to help in establishing the Training Within Industry (TWI) programs in 1951.
Before the arrival of Mellen in 1951, the ESS group showed a training film about the TWI 3J principles- Job Instruction, Job Methods, and Job Relations. This movie was titled ‘Improvement in four steps.’ Thus, this was the original introduction of Kaizen to Japan.
In 1960, the Emperor of Japan awarded the 2nd order Medal of the Sacred Treasure to Dr. Deming for introducing, pioneering, and implementing Kaizen in Japan.
Kaizen was first adopted by Toyota when it implemented quality circles in its production process. A quality circle is a group of people who work on the same or similar project, who meet on a regular basis to identify, analyze and solve work-related issues if any.
This led to the formation of the Toyota Production System, led by Taiichi Ohno, a former Executive Vice-President of Toyota Motor Company. This aimed to create a system of continuous improvement in quality, processes, productivity, management, and technology. This concept soon became popular across the country and contributed to the country’s success in the global market.
In 1986, Masaaki Imai’s introduced Kaizen to the rest of the world through one of the bestselling books, named, Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.
Impact of Kaizen in the real world
Kaizen is a philosophy that can be applied in all spheres of our lives, be it our working life, social life, or life at home. Implementation of Kaizen assumes that there is always scope for improvement and one should not be completely satisfied with one’s previous achievements and thus strive for better.
When companies start to apply the concept of Kaizen, it aims towards improvements in the people, products, and the processes followed in the company. Emphasis is placed upon the process- on the ‘how’ part of achieving the desired results. Employees who are best at their jobs suggest improvements that would help in resolving problems quickly and efficiently. These changes are then communicated to everyone in the team so that the rest of the team can also start applying Kaizen.
A study of 236 employees from three different facilities has shown that the adoption of Kaizen has led to job enrichment and a rise in motivation. Job satisfaction also leads to satisfaction in your personal life, thus enriching lives in personal and work spheres.
Kaizen has many benefits in the real world, some of which are listed below.
- The process of Kaizen helps in ensuring that any hindrances or threats to the project are identified in the initial stages of the project and solved immediately.
- It aims to reduce the waste of an organisation by effective management. Since this method encourages the idea that there are always better ways of doing things, employees are asked to conduct brainstorming sessions to come up with new and innovative ideas to reduce waste. This also ensures people work in a team and reach a positive outcome.
- Companies who implement Kaizen are adept at process-oriented thinking which means that the method of achieving a certain result is as important as a result itself.
Kaizen has proven to be immensely successful in Japanese business and is responsible for bringing Japan to the forefront in the global market. Because of such success in Japan, this philosophy is now being heavily implemented in organizations from other parts of the world. Since it focuses on improvement, it has great positive impacts on businesses and also in other spheres of life.