Kaizen, which in Japanese means ‘continuous improvement’, is a management technique developed in Japan to bring about continuous improvement in operations of an organization, with widespread involvement of employees at all levels of organization. Application of kaizen improves organizational performance through many small improvements rather just a few major improvements. Kaizen aims to improve all the processes in an organization and it involves everyone in the organization to find and eliminating waste of every type.
The core of the kaizen system is organizing almost the entire work force in multi-level and multi-trade teams and empowering them to become effective tools for improvement in the organization. These teams, in addition to performing their routine jobs are expected to do the following:
- Identify problems and opportunities for improvement in the current working methods.
- Develop and suggest ways of overcoming problems and improving performance.
- Implement improved methods.
Effectiveness of these teams is ensured by use of effective methods of team working. Also the team members are trained in methods of problem identification, analysis and development of better methods. Finally an incentive scheme is put in place that provides suitable motivation to individuals to contribute to the effectiveness of their teams as well as the total company performance.
The following steps are involved in implementation of kaizen.
- The key to success in kaizen is the way it is implemented. It is more of a total working culture in the organization rater than on of the many activities performed. Such a cultural transformation requires that the top management must be fully commitment to the kaizen thinking and culture. The first step in implementation of kaizen is developing this kind of commitment to kaizen among the top management.
- Providing orientation and training programs to develop understanding and support for kaizen at all levels of management.
- Development of suitable systems for resource allocation, measurement, and reward and incentives.
- Once these preparations are in place, it is time to get all the employees in the kaizen program. Every employee must be motivated to accept kaizen as a means by which the firm can achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Towards achieving this end wide publicity must be provided to the kaizen program, making sure that employee at all levels understand and accept the kaizen approach.
- Then employees are encouraged to form kaizen teams. Goals of each team is formed is set in consultation with team member.
- Team members are given suitable training in kaizen methods.
With this initial preparation the kaizen teams are ready to start functioning effectively.
- However for continued success of kaizen it is essential to give wide publicity to each team’s goals, and achievements. A system must be in place to evaluate and reward the team members for their contribution.