A Look on Kaizen Philosophy and How It Can Drive Your Business to Another Level
Author: Joanah Gamboa
Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” tells an epic tale of two animals in a competition. The hare, known to be the fastest runner in the forest, challenged the other animals to a race. The hare is guaranteed of its win, especially when the one who accepted the challenge is the turtle — the slowest in the lot. However, the story ended with the turtle winning the race, and the hare ashamed of its own egoism and imprudence.
More than holding good lessons for children, this tale highlights the importance of perseverance and the small steps one must take in the course of his/her dream. This tale can be related to an old philosophy called Kaizen.
Literally, it means good change, yet its most legendary implication is continuous improvement or continually improving for the better. It is a practice currently applied in management and business as one of the secret ingredients towards entrepreneurial success.
Kaizen philosophy was conceived in Japan after World War II to help restore the economic sector of the country. It is a product of a program that aimed to improve Japanese management skills. This philosophy acknowledges the proverbial adage, “there’s always a room for improvement”, stressing the importance of small steps, constant enhancements, and teamwork. Moreover, it prompts individuals not to be intimidated by changes and improvements.
In business, Kaizen can be an effective means in bringing organizational success and can be an essential part in one’s marketing strategies. It is famous among Japanese, not only because it originated in Japan, but also because it has helped them in business. An example is Toyota Production System, which uses the philosophy “to eliminate waste in all areas, including the production process”. Also, in brainstorming for ideas and solutions to address any abnormality in their business procedures, Toyota Production System involves all personnel from the top to the bottom.
In a website, Masaaki Imai, Chairman of Kaizen Institute, is quoted saying: “continuous improvement is built on the foundation of people courageously using their creativity… it is a technique to remove fear from our mind’s mind, enabling us to take small steps to better things…”
Methods of Kaizen
Kaizen philosophy consists of five elements that made it distinguishable from other business viewpoints. You can use these elements to effectively run your business and handle your most important resource— your employees.
- These are the Kaizen elements:
- Personal Discipline
- Improved morale
- Quality Circles
- Suggestions for Improvement
Aside from its five elements, Kaizen is also governed by a set of principles. These principles, ruled by the aforementioned elements, appear like guidelines for entrepreneurs to follow in order to be effective. If you are a startup, you can greatly benefit from these set of principles, for they focus on efficiency, optimism, and moving forward.
The principles of Kaizen, as identified by Leading Group Edge, a consulting company specializing in the area of change and continuous improvement, are as follows:
- Throw out all your old fixed ideas on how to do things.
- No blame – treat others as you want to be treated.
- Think positive – don’t say can’t.
- Don’t wait for perfection. 50% improvement now is fine.
- Correct mistakes as soon as they are found.
- Don’t substitute money for thinking. Creativity before Capital.
- Keep asking why until you get to the root cause.
- Better the wisdom of 5 people than the expertise of 1.
- Base decisions on data, not on opinions.
- Improvement is not made from a conference room.
Related Books and Workshops
Kaizen’s relevance in this age is highlighted by the numerous books and articles published about it. A book, titled The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Small Step at A Time, focuses on its impact to business. The book identifies five focal aspects in business where Kaizen can be effective: innovation, quality, sales, productivity, and morale.
Some companies and organizations, especially the ones in Japan, are inculcating Kaizen in their business structure. Some even named itself Kaizen! They may have done such for good luck, to vie for clicks, or to remind themselves to constantly change for the good — whatever their reason, they have tapped Kaizen philosophy to guide their trade to another level.
Kaizen belongs to a mountain of philosophies that exist around business management. Entrepreneurs, startups or veterans alike, can use its main premise – continuous improvement – in bringing their business forward. If internalized and used properly, Kaizen philosophy can fuel the machines of your startup business and drive it to your desired finish line – SUCCESS. Slowly, but surely, just like how the turtle wins the race.