The Concepts Of Kaizen

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(by Ananya Tyagi, Class XI)

We don't realise how easy it is to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.

This is exactly what the Japanese concept of "Kaizen" puts forward. "Kai" literally means "change" and "zen" means "for the better". The concept was initially laid down for businesses to grow and evolve but it can also be used in our daily life.

There are 10 principles of the 'kaizen' concept.

  1. Strive for continuous improvement. Things can always get better no matter how good or bad they may be now.
  2. Always questions tradition and, when necessary, discard the old to make way for the new.
  3. Acquire wisdom by consulting with many people rather than relying on one expert.
  4. Don’t waste time making excuses but focus on finding solutions.
  5. Make sure you base your decisions on facts rather than opinions.
  6. Get to the root cause of a situation or problem by asking “Why?” at least 5 times.
  7. Before spending money to fix a problem, look for simple and inexpensive solutions.
  8. Always question the status quo.
  9. Start making improvements right away, even if you don’t yet have all the answers.
  10. Make sure everyone is involved. Real change must include everyone who works on a project, not only those at the top. At Toyota, for example, any worker has the authority to stop production if he notices a problem.

Focus on the fact that if you can get 1% better each day for one year, you'll end up three hundred sixty five times better by the time you're done. Conversely if you get 1 Percent worse each day, you'll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more

Here are some examples of some companies which have used the kaizen concept:

Toyota is arguably the most famous for its use of Kaizen, but other companies have also successfully used the approach.

  • Lockheed Martin. The aerospace company is a well-known company and has used the method to successfully reduce manufacturing costs, inventory and delivery time.
  • Ford Motor Company. When lean devotee Alan Mulally became CEO of Ford in 2006, the automaker was on the brink of bankruptcy. Mulally used Kaizen to execute one of the most famous corporate turnarounds in history.

The impact created by a small change can be visualised by this example,

Imagine you are flying from Los Angeles to New York. If the pilot adjusts the heading by just 3.5 degrees south, you'll land up in Washington instead of New York. Such a small change, barely noticeable at the time of take-off can move you more than a hundred miles apart.

The real beauty of Kaizen is that it’s a way of living that can help you in any situation.

The real key to understanding and applying Kaizen is focusing on the idea of continuous improvement, you’ll find as time passes the subtle continual improvements will empower you to set the next set of goals and actually accomplish them.