Welcome to the Kaizen series. I hope you find the readings thought-provoking and inspiring. Please enjoy.

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 the 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 film was titled as ‘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, and 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 his 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 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 organization 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 the result itself.

Kaizen has proven to be immensely successful in Japanese business and is responsible for bringing Japan to the forefront of 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 to businesses and in other spheres of life.

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Nick Thorne is the founder of Nick’s Digital Solutions Limited. He lives in Levin, New Zealand.

Nick Thorne performs a Cat Scan