SAGE ADVICE FOR RESUMES, INTERVIEWING, AND MORE!
- By bruce w clagg
‘KAIZEN.’ What is it? What does it mean? Does it apply to business, or individuals? Who cares?
Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement. Kaizen was originally introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success in 1986. Today, Kaizen is recognized worldwide as an important pillar of an organization's long-term competitive strategy. No, it is not a word, yet, in the English language.
“Continuous improvement?” What a concept, huh? Think about it for a moment – if you, and /or your organization DOES NOT continuously improve, you can bet that some of your competitors definitely will! The edge that you once thought you had will be gone.
It reminds of my years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – “The steel capitol of the world.” While feckless, senior management was constantly arguing with greedy Union bosses, Japan was practicing Kaizen initiatives to the point whereby they could produce steel equal to, or perhaps better than that being produced here with improved efficiency and expense. This lowered their pricing and increased their profits. They dominated steel production selling to the construction and automobile trades, et al and the mills in Pittsburgh, many landmarks dating back to the Civil War, started laying-off personnel and finally closing forever. To add insult to injury, many of the remains within those mills were shipped to Japan leaving just an empty shell of a building once employing tens of thousands of hard-working Americans.
In the long run it worked out for the best. Carnegie-Mellon and other academic and ‘techno’ pioneers started an area for ‘incubator companies,’ many on the property where a steel mill once stood, that now lead the world in technology. Pittsburgh is no longer dependent upon the up and down steel market for its fiscal well-being and citizenry.
"Kaizen" is Japanese for "improvement."
When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain.
Kaizen also applies to individuals no matter if one’s formal education ceased at high school, undergraduate, or graduate school. There is the Kaizen Institute Consulting Group that “enables leaders to achieve their performance dreams through continuous improvement of people, processes and systems.” Not too dissimilar, in theory, from the Six Sigma programs that can be traced back to Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), enriched by Motorola and later became a premiere Certification series from Jack Welch at General Electric in 1995. It is available today, as for years, in community colleges into the ‘Ivy League’ schools nationwide and is a prized, income-raising certification for many. Other schools and groups are out there and more are coming.
As Ray Kroc, former CEO of McDonalds said (paraphrasing) “You’re either green and growing, or you’re ripe and rotting.”
Continuous self-improvement and improvements in all segments within business will be the power of this country to achieve, perhaps over-achieve, and keep driving new technologies, new businesses, new careers, new ideas, greater compensation, greater profits, and success for all that are willing to realize that without continuous improvement, you too will become an ‘empty shell of a building.’
Hello! I'm Bruce Clagg,
Advanced Career Solutions
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