Kaizen, also known as continuous improvement, is a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality. Kaizen can be applied to any kind of work, but it is perhaps best known for being used in lean manufacturing and lean programming. If a work environment practices kaizen, continuous improvement is the responsibility of every worker, not just a selected few.
Kaizen can be roughly translated from Japanese to mean “good change.” The philosophy behind kaizen is often credited to Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Dr. Deming was invited by Japanese industrial leaders and engineers to help rebuild Japan after World War II. He was honored for his contributions by Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers.
In his book “Out of the Crisis,” Dr. Deming shared his philosophy of continuous improvement:-
Deming has given his views on management and its relationship with quality in his 14 points for management.
These points are summarized as under
- Create consistency of purpose towards improvement of product and service with an aim to become competitive and thus to stay in business and to provide jobs.
- Adopt the new philosophy for economic stability. Management needs to take leadership for change and we no longer live with delays, mistakes, defective materials and defective workmanship.
- Eliminate the need for mass inspection by building quality into the product in the first place.
- End the practice of awarding business on price tag alone. Rather total cost should be minimized. Select a single supplier for any item on a long term relationship of trust and loyalty.
- Improve constantly the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity and thus leading to the decrease in cost.
- Institute better methods of training and education for all the employees including management to make effective use of all the employees.
- Adopt and institute better leadership to help the people to perform a job in a better way.
- Drive out fear so that everyone works for the company effectively without any tension.
- Break down barriers between different departments. People in different departments must work as a team to tackle the problems of production that may be encountered with the product or service.
- Eliminate slogans, exhortations and numerical targets for the workforce. They never help the workers to do the job in a better way. Let the workers develop their own slogans and work accordingly.
- Eliminate work standards and numerical quotas. Eliminate management by objectives and also eliminate management by numbers. These are usually a guarantee of inefficiency and high costs. A person, in order to hold a job, will try to meet a quota at any cost including doing damage to his company.
- Remove barriers in taking pride in workmanship. Usually, incompetent supervisors, defective materials and faulty equipment’s are stumbling blocks in the way of good performance. These barriers must be eliminated.
- Introduce a vigorous programme of education and self development. Both the management and the work force will have to be educated in the new knowledge and understanding, including teamwork and statistical techniques.
- Take proper action to accomplish the transformation. Top management has to constitute a team with a plan of action to carry out the quality mission.