What is it that makes a company go from a one man operation to a multimillion dollar FORTUNE 500 company? If someone could figure out the answer to this question, then they will become a very wealthy person very quickly. There is so much that goes into managing and working a business that one single answer is nearly impossible. However, one of the most important things that most business professionals would agree that in order for a company to thrive it must be able to continuously improve and adapt. This continuous improvement is the fundamental philosophy behind Kaizen.
The philosophy of Kaizen came from the crippled and devastated country of Japan after World War II. In the aftermath of World War II, America occupation forces brought in American experts to help rebuild Japanese industry and improving management skills. One of the experts that was brought in was W. Edwards Deming. He was instrumental in implementing the philosophy of Kaizen. “Kaizen” is a Japanese word that means “improvement.” An education program instituted in Japan in the late 1940s introduced a film named, “Improvement in Four Steps” or “Kaizen eno Yon Dankai” in Japanese. This was the first introduction of Kaizen to Japan.
What is Kaizen? Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement.” It deals with the continuous improvement of processes in management, manufacturing, engineering, and has been applied to areas like life-coaching and psychotherapy. It is important to note that Kaizen requires the cooperation of the entire organization. Everyone from the CEOs to the assembly line workers must be involved. Once all factions are involved, they can proceed through the process of Kaizen. There are five main elements of Kaizen:
Suggestions for improvement.
So, Kaizen was effective in helping a decimated country after a devastating war. But why is it important in 20th century life? American businessman James Cash Penney once stated, “Change is vital, improvement is the logical form of change.” This is precisely the point of Kaizen. Life, in all dimensions, is not stagnant or linear. Our physical world and philosophies are constantly evolving, if a business does not adjust to these changes then it destined to fail. We must continually adapt to our change world, but just adapting is not good enough. We must improve our methods, ideologies, and even our business plans to truly keep up with a changing world.
Without improvement, so much of our world would be dramatically different. Without the desire to improve on previous creations and ideologies we not have inventions like automobiles, computers, immunizations, or even the simple things which we take for granted electricity and running water. It is the desire to innovate and improve that make the world better. Living to continuously improve oneself and others is the driving force behind Kaizen.