Three Segments of Kaizen

1. Management –oriented Kaizen

The first pillar is management-oriented Kaizen. It is a crucial one, since management oriented Kaizen concentrates on the most important logistics and strategic issues and provides the momentum to keep up the progress and morale. The Japanese management generally believes that a manager should spend at least 50 percent of his time on improvement. The starting point is to identify waste in the worker’s motion. Management oriented Kaizen also takes the form of group approach such as Kaizen teams, project teams, and task forces. However, these groups are quite different from the quality control circles in that they are composed of management and staff and their activities are regarded as a routine part of management’s job.

The management should direct its effort to systems improvement as one of the most important tasks of management oriented Kaizen. Systems improvement concerns such crucial areas of management as planning and control, decision making processes, organisation   and information systems. Where managements have failed to establish such a system and have, instead, directed their efforts randomly and in bits and pieces, success has often been shortlived. This is why commitment of the top management is indispensaable when Kaizen is introduced. Many top executives believe that Kaizen is 50 per cent of management’s job.

2. Group-oriented Kaizen

Kaizen in group work, as a permanent approach, is represented by small- group activities like quality control circles that use various tools to solve problems. The permanent approach also calls for the full PDCA cycle and demands that team members identify problem areas and also identify the causes, analyze them, implement  and test new counter-measures, and establish new standards and/or procedures. When group work is a temporary approach, the suggestions are provided by ad hoc groups of employees formed to solve particular tasks. While the members of these ad hoc groups are, often trained in the use of statistical and analytical tools, the groups disband when their target is achieved.

Small group activities

Small group  activites may be defined as informal, voluntary small groups, organsiaed within the company to carry out specific tasks in the workshop. These small-group activites take many forms, depending on their aims: big-brother groups, big-sister groups, QC circles, ZD movements, no-error moements, level-up movements, JK, mini think tanks, suggestion groups, safety groups, workshop involvement movements, productivity committees, management-by-objectives groups, and workshop talk groups. These small groups were often initially formed for the purpose of stimulating cross-development among its members. The advantages of small group activities are given below:

i. Setting group objectives and working for their attainment strengths the sense of teamwork.

ii. Group members share and coordinate their respective roles better.

iii. Communication between labour and management, as well as between workers of different ages, is improved.

iv. Morale is greatly improved.

v .Workers develop new skills and knowledge and more cooperative attitudes.

vi. The group is self-sustaining and solves problems that would otherwise be left to management.

vii. Labour-management relations are greatly improved.

Although small group activities began as informal, voluntary organizations, they have now come to occupy a respected and legitimate position in the eyes of managements and Japanese companies as a whole.

3. Individual-Oriented Kaizen

The suggestion system is a vehicle for carrying out individual-oriented Kaizen. Individual oriented improvement has almost infinite opportunity and is often regarded as a morale booster, and the management does not always ask for immediate economic payback on each suggestion. Management attention and responsiveness are essential if workers are to become ‘thinking workers’ always look for better ways to don their work.

The suggestion system is an integral part of individual oriented Kaizen. The top management must implement a well-designed plan to assure that the suggestion system is dynamic. The following are a few examples for suggestions in most companies.

i. Improvements in one’s own work.

ii. Savings in energy, material and other resources.

iii. Improvements in the working environment.

iv. Improvements in machines and processes.

v. Improvements in jigs and tools.

vi. Improvements in office work.

vii. Improvements product quality.

viii. Ideas for new products.

ix. Customer services and customer relations.

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