Japanese concept of continuous improvement
of this section is to introduce the student to the concept of Kaizen.
Some readers of this section may have already heard of this word and know it is a Japanese business term about improving things.
In the 1980's and early 1990's, many large Japanese companies set up manufacturing operations in North America. As they acquired North American companies (like Bridgestone's takeover of Firestone, and SONY's takeover of Columbia Pictures) the Japanese corporate leadership spread their management style to their subsidiary companies and many non-Japanese learned basic Japanese terms for business practices.
Kaizen, Sogo shosha and Keiretsu became some of the common terms used by North American managers.
The reason why we discuss this in 2005 and beyond is because the philosophy of continuous improvement is no longer just a Japanese managerial objective, but something many companies strive for due to the influences and challenges forced by the
KAIZEN is a Japanese word meaning gradual, orderly, continuous improvement. The
KAIZEN business strategy involves everyone in an organisation working together to
make improvements without large capital investments.
KAIZEN is a culture of sustained
continuous improvement focusing on eliminating
"As an industrial norm, Japanese
practices seemed to embrace belief in multi-skilled, committed employees
who respond flexibly and with know-how to resolve local, operational problems
and fluctuations. If sales are low instead of continuing to produce blindly,
reviews of practices and efficiencies, maintenance operations and
training would be normal activities for employees in a team. Rank-and-file
employees might participate in other creative endeavours."
|.||Kaizen can also be used
by North American businesses as an excuse to make changes very slowly,
or not make changes at all. Read this interesting critique
"Bureaucracies love kaizen because the individuals in bureaucracies interpret it to be a most noble and overtly responsible process of gradual and incremental improvement. Kaizen is contemporary (at least for North American firms), and gradual (read non-threatening and ‘manageable’), and incremental (small, safe, baby steps), and ‘correct’ (we are committed to excellence ... blah, blah, blah). The bottom line is that it is the greatest defence to tampering with anything of significance that might ‘rock the boat.’ Keep it safe. Keep it contained. Keep it under control. Manage the risk. We wouldn’t want anything too dramatic to happen."
Kaizen's importance to the
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