From Japan: “We were not always a Kaizen company” — Surprising?
Here is something brief that I posted on LinkedIn while I was in Japan recently, but I also wanted to share it here, elaborating a bit.
In my visits to Japan, I have learned that not every company here utilizes TPS, Lean, Kaizen, or TQM. It's not the default and it's not easier if you're Japanese, as some people think.
One company I visited this week said:
“We were not always a Kaizen company.”
That might surprise some readers.
Kaizen isn't the default. It's been a specific effort they've been making the past few years.
Their new-found emphasis on engaging employees in continuous improvement fame from a new CEO who came from Toyota.
Leadership matters. Leadership is critically important.
Paraphrasing Mitt Romney, we have binders full of Kaizens!
Here is what one of those Kaizens looks like, along with an automated translation was done via the Google Translate on my iPhone:
This is a similar format as what I've used in different organizations, something that I've called a “Kaizen Report” or a “Kaizen Summary,” as we've documented in Healthcare Kaizen (and you can find templates like this on our book's website).
Tour participants loved flipping through the binders… even without understanding Japanese, the photos help you get a sense of the types of small improvements that are being made so frequently. I don't have an exact count of how many Kaizens have been documented.
Here is another blog post, from my first visit in 2012, on the theme of “this isn't easier in Japan”:
Lean, TPS, Kaizen, TQM… these aren't magically the default way of being for a Japanese company. It requires effort and dedication…
Here is the original LinkedIn post with a lot of great comments and discussion: