Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kyaizen: The Japanese Version of Quality

The Japanese word 'Kaizen' means grdual, unending improvement; doing little things better; setting - and achieving - ever-higher standards. Masaaki Imai, the author of a book with the same title in the late eighties, says that it is Kaizen that is the simple truth behind Japan's economic miracle and the real reason the Japanese have become the masters of "flexible manufacturing" technology - the ability to adapt manufacturing processes to changing customer and market requirments, and do it fast.
The US interpretation of Kaizen message is "do it better, make it better, imorve it even if it ain't broke, because if you don't, you can't compete with those who do." In other words, the key to success in sustaining quality leadership in the market is to continuously imporve your products and/or any services you are offering your customers. It is amazing that all that Imai preached in his book are still valid todate. Kaizen, as discussed by the author still plays a vital role in formulating all aspects of organizational systems and processes including HR planning, customer satisfaction, team cocepts, corporate culture, problem solving and conflict resolution, just-in-time production ... etc.
Kaizen strategy, as stated by Imai is the single most important concept in Japanese management-the key to Japanese competitive success. It means ongoing improvement involving everyone from top management to workers. The concept is deeply ingrained in the minds of all employees at all levels of employment that they often do not even realize that they are thinking Kaizen. Perhaps the most important difference between between Japanese and Western management concepts is that Kaizen is a process oriented way of thinking, while the West's is innovation and results oriented.
In today's competitive business environment, any delay in adopting the latest technology is costly. Delays in adopting imporved managment techniques are no less costly. After the Second World War, numerous warnings have been issued about the increased cost of resources, stiffer competition to win customer acceptance through quality, and the need to develop more customer-orineted products and services faster than ever before.
Successful companies have shown that it is possible to anticipate change and to meet the challenges while hey are still manageable. Japanese companies, for example, have successfully designed, manufatured, and marketed competitive products using Kaizen strategy. Many Japanese management practices uscceed simply because they are good managment practives. This success has little to do with cultural factors. It is simply a management practice. That means the ways leading to it can be replicated anywhere else in the world. It it an overriding concept behind good management. A Japanese management competitive edge could be due to their systematic collaborative approach to problem solving while the West is still applying a conflict resolution approach.
Underlying the Kaizen strategy is the recognition that management must seek to satisfy the customer and serve customer needs if it is to stay in business and make a profit. another important aspect of Kaizen has been its emphasis on process. Kaizen has generated a process-oriented way of thinking, and a management system that supports and acknowledges people's process-oriented efforts for improvement.

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