What is Kaizen



What is Kaizen


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What is KAIZEN ?


KAIZEN as originally defined in the book of: "KAIZEN, the Key to Japan's Competitive Success", by Mr. Masaaki Imai, is:
KAIZEN means improvement. Moreover, KAIZEN means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. When applied to the workplace KAIZEN means continuing improvement involving everyone - managers and workers alike.

KAIZEN is a Japanese word meaning gradual and orderly, continuous improvement. The KAIZEN business strategy involves everyone in an organization working together to make improvements 'without large capital investments'.
      KAIZEN is a culture of sustained continuous improvement focusing on eliminating waste in all systems and processes of an organization. The KAIZEN strategy begins and ends with people. With KAIZEN, an involved leadership guides people to continuously improve their ability to meet expectations of high quality, low cost, and on-time delivery. KAIZEN transforms companies into 'Superior Global Competitors'.

Two Elements of KAIZEN

      There are two elements that construct KAIZEN, improvement/change for the better and ongoing/continuity. Lacking one of those elements would not be considered KAIZEN. For instance, the expression of "business as usual" contains the element of continuity without improvement. On the other hand, the expression of "breakthrough" contains the element of change or improvement without continuity. KAIZEN should contain both elements.

KAIZEN Concept in Our Individual Life

      KAIZEN, as you could learn from the definition, is a common word and very natural to individual, continuous improvement in personal life, home life, social life and working life. Everybody deserves to and should be willing to improve himself/herself for the better continually. "If a man has not been seen for three days, his friends should take a good look at him to see what changes have befallen him" quoted from the old Japanese saying, describes how natural KAIZEN is.

Maintenance, Innovation, and KAIZEN

      In our concepts, three functions should happen simultaneously within any organizations: Maintenance, Innovation, and KAIZEN. By maintenance, we refer to maintaining the current status, the procedures are set and the standards are implemented. People in the lower level of organization mostly do that, they maintain their standards.
      By Innovation, we refer to breakthrough activities initiated by top management, buying new machines, new equipment, developing new markets, directing R&D, change of strategy etc.
      In the middle there is KAIZEN, small steps but continuing improvement. KAIZEN should be implemented by the lower/middle management and the workers, with the encouragement and direction of the top. The top management responsibility is to cultivate a KAIZEN working climates and cultures in the organization.


KAIZEN in Organization


Insemination of KAIZEN into the Organization

Not a day should go without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company. When KAIZEN is adapted in organizations and management perspectives, however, it is easier to talk about it than to implement it. It is very natural that people will propose some kind of change in their own work place, when they become unsatisfied with their present conditions. Some of the improvements could be carried outright away. Perhaps, the boss won't even notice them. However, when approval is required, several kinds of responses from the boss could have taken place. The ideal situation is that the boss encourages their subordinates to carry out their ideas. The boss then appreciates the efforts or gives recognition. That's what people expect when they propose something. The positive response given by the boss will then develop trust with the subordinates and stimulate other improvements. Cumulatively, this will create momentum for continuing improvement.

The Wet Blanket List
      However, life in the organization is not as easy. The boss could ask you a silly question like: "it is not broken, why should we change it" or "the procedures is fine with me, why should we changed it?". From your perspective, you know that if you change it, the boss will blame you. The boss just did not want to give you a try, with a lot of reasons and/or no reasons. You could not do anything anymore, "the boss is always right" like the saying goes. There are so many bosses like that. The book KAIZEN talks about the list called "The Wet Blanket List". The bosses should encourage their subordinates, but in a real life, the wet blankets put out the "fire" of improvement suggestions. Here is the list of wet blankets:



  1. I am too busy to study it
  1. It's a good idea, but the timing is premature
  1. It is not in the budget
  1. Theory is different from practice
  1. Isn't there something else for you to do?
  1. I think it doesn't match corporate policy
  1. It isn't our business; let someone else think about it
  1. Are you dissatisfied with your work?
  1. It's not improvement, it's common sense
  1. I know the result, even if we don't do it
  1. I will not be held accountable for it
  1. Can't you think of a better idea?


      Yes, I heard them from my boss, you may say, however, reflect on yourself before you blame your boss. Your subordinates may also hear them from you frequently. In an inefficient organization, everybody tends to throw wet blankets everywhere. You could also add more wet blankets from your own vocabulary, the list could be endless.


The Real Organizational Life
      That's what really happens in organizational life. Bosses discourage subordinates and the subordinates become skeptical. They quit making proposals, suggestions and improvement and the organization becomes very stagnant. Sometime, the bosses are aware of the stagnation and buy a new machine, change the layouts, or even hire a bunch of consultants to make a breakthrough. They do that because it's their function to make breakthroughs. They change everything and rock the organization. However, they don't change and still criticize their subordinate, tossing wet blankets to the people. This is very important point, that change and improvement should start from top management. Top management should change their own behavior when dealing with subordinates.
      Thus, KAIZEN Institute puts the top management commitment as priority number one. Without such change, we could not start KAIZEN in the organizations. Traditional management always says that there are two classes of people in the organization. One is a group of thinkers who think and innovate new ideas, and another is a group of workers who are required to work with their hands. The worker class should not think of anything, except work, work and work. There is an actual management philosophy in parts of the world saying "factory workers should leave their brains by the entrance gate prior to entering the factory". The message is clear, management doesn't want your thoughts, they only need your hands and muscles, however, this concept is confronting natural law.
Ten Basic Tips for KAIZEN activities
      As you know by now, it is not easy to implement the KAIZEN philosophy to where the culture is not solid to adopt it. KAIZEN Institute can help to change the way of thinking of your people and the culture and make a difference. Here is the first advice from us for you to start with, the list of basic tips for KAIZEN to have the first step of KAIZEN implementation.



  1. Discard conventional fixed ideas.
  1. Think of how to do it, not why it cannot be done.
  1. Do not make excuses. Start by questioning current practices.
  1. Do not seek perfection. Do it right away even if for only 50% of target.
  1. Correct it right away, if you make mistake.
  1. Do not spend money for KAIZEN, use your wisdom.
  1. Wisdom is brought out when faced with hardship.
  1. Ask 'WHY?" five times and seek root causes.
  1. Seek the wisdom of ten people rather than the knowledge of one.
  1. KAIZEN ideas are infinite.




Introduction to GEMBAKAIZEN

            "GEMBA" is a Japanese word meaning "real place", where the real action takes place. In business, GEMBA is where the value-adding activities to satisfy the client are carried out.
In manufacturing industry, there are three major activities directly related to earning money: developing, producing and selling products. Without these activities, the company cannot exist. Therefore, in a broad sense, GEMBA means the sites of these three major activities. In a narrower context, however, GEMBA means the place where the products are made. The word is usually used in this narrower context, since production sites have been one of the business arenas most neglected by management. Managers seem to write production off as only a secondary means to earn money, and usually place far more emphasis on such sectors as financial management, marketing and sales, and product development. When GEMBA or production sites do become a focus of management attention, though, they can be turned into a utopia capable of making the company far more successful and profitable.
      In the service industries, GEMBA is where the customers come into contact with the services offered. In the hotel business, for instance, GEMBA is everywhere: the lobby, the dining room, guest rooms, the receptionist's desk, check-in counters, and the concierge station. At banks, tellers are working in GEMBA, as are loan officers receiving applicants. The same goes for employee's working desks in offices and for telephone operators sitting in front of switchboards. Thus, GEMBA spans a multitude of offices and administrative functions.

      Now you have a good understanding of the words, KAIZEN and GEMBA. GEMBAKAIZEN is KAIZEN activities that take place in GEMBA. GEMBAKAIZEN is to make continuous improvement at the real place, where the action is going on, and that can make your organization better.

Imai contrasts kaizen with the traditional Western approach.

"KAIZEN" MAY BE A JAPANESE TERM, but it has "gained citizenship in the U.S.," observes Masaaki Imai, who has been a leader in spreading the gospel of kaizen around the world. His book on Japanese management,
Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success (1986, McGraw-Hill), introduced many Western managers to the principles of kaizen. Seven years later, the word "kaizen" made its debut in the Oxford dictionary.


"Now it is an English "Now it is an English word," Imai says proudly. "And today, many managers have created kaizen departments and kaizen teams." One of the results has been a gradual shift in manufacturers' thinking about how to improve operations—at least in some companies. But many managers still cling to the old paradigms, says Imai, founder and chairman of the Kaizen Institute, a worldwide consulting network.


"Most Western managers still worship at the altar of innovation," he tells IW. "By making investments in technologies and computer systems and so on, they expect to make dramatic changes, whereas the Japanese approach has been to do kaizen first.... Western managers tend to be infatuated with the 'big-bang' change and making a big investment, while the Japanese try to take advantage of low-cost common-sense approaches for improvement.

"Most Western managers still worship at the altar of innovation," he tells IW. "By making investments in technologies and computer systems and so on, they expect to make dramatic changes, whereas the Japanese approach has been to do kaizen first.... Western managers tend to be infatuated with the 'big-bang' change and making a big investment, while the Japanese try to take advantage of low-cost common-sense approaches for improvement.

"Kaizen innovation doesn't cost a lot of money, but it changes the way that people do their jobs. The kaizen approach is to make better use of your existing resources.

In his latest book, Gemba Kaizen: The Common-Sense Approach to Business Management (1997. McGraw-Hill). Imai explain that gemba is the place where real action occurs. In a manufacturing company, for example, it can be a reference to the factory floor. In many Western companies, he observes, "Managers seem to overlook the workplace as a means to generate revenue, and they usually put far more emphasis on such sectors as financial management, marketing and sales, and product development."


"When you go to gemba and have a good look at how people do their jobs you can identify many inadequate management systems." Author Masaaki Imai

But it is important, he asserts in Gemba Kaizen, for management to "maintain close contact with the realities of the gemba in order to solve whatever problems arise there.... When management does not respect and appreciate gemba, it tends to 'dump' its instructions, designs, and other supporting services—often in complete disregard of actual requirements."

Moreover, managers who are not in tune with the realities of the workplace are likely to miss opportunities to make the best use of their existing resources, Imai tells IW. To illustrate his point, he relates a story about a German manufacturer of aluminum foil. Its production facility had six foil-making machines. In anticipation of a large increase in customer orders, the plant manager had asked corporate headquarters to approve an investment of 15 million deutsche marks to install two additional machines.


While touring the plant, a kaizen consultant asked the plant manager about his overall equipment efficiency (OEE) ratio. "The OEE tells you what percent of the time a machine is producing good-quality products," Imai explains. "When a machine is down for repair or when it is making parts that are rejected, that reduces your OEE ratio."


The plant manager had no idea what his OEE ratio was, but he began collecting data and was dismayed to discover that it was a mere 38%-indicating serious equipment problems. The consultant then told him, "Maybe the answer is not buying new machines, but improving the ones you already have."

Subsequently, the plant implemented kaizen concepts—including the five Ss of good housekeeping and total productive maintenance —to reduce its reject rate. "After several months, they had increased the output of the machines," Imai says, "and they found that they could produce everything they needed by using only five of their six existing machines."


The Kaizen Institute uses the term gemba kaizen to describe the five-day events that many companies have deployed to implement kaizen improvement programs. "We have found that the best way to convince top management that they really need to change is to conduct a one-week gemba kaizen," Imai says. "They have to see how much muda [waste] they have in their plants—and also how much opportunity they have. They have to see it to believe."




The 5 Ss of good housekeeping are derived from five Japanese words which have been given English counterparts. Here is how they are defined by Masaaki Imai in Gemba Kaizen:

Seiri (sort) - Separate out all the things that are unnecessary and eliminate them.

Seiton (straighten) - Arrange the essential things in order so that they can be easily accessed.

Seiso (scrub) - Keep machines and working environments clean.

Seiketsu (systematize) - Make cleaning and checking a routine practice.

Shitsuke (standardize) - Standardize the previous four steps to make the process one that never ends - and that can be improved upon.


Imai points out that the word muda implies any activity that does not add value. "A worker looking at an automatic machine while the machine processes a piece does not add any value," he explains in his book, which discusses the seven types of muda: overproduction, inventory excess, repair/rejects, motion, processing inefficiency, waiting (idle time), and transport (moving parts and materials)


Unnecessary motion is a common form of muda, he notes, citing a case where a factory manager discovered that one worker walked 400 kilometers during the course of a year. "Ironically, some factories are equipped with gyms that have running tracks," he says, "but the workers spend more time jogging in gemba during working hours than in the gym during off hours."


The three key building blocks of kaizen—elimination of muda, good housekeeping, and standardization of procedures—are essential elements in quality improvement, the Tokyo-born guru asserts. "Many quality professionals," he says, "are infatuated with quality from a technological standpoint.... They think that they have to do statistical quality control and create control charts, but they haven't made any effort in the three [building-block] areas. And the [process] variability coming from the lack of those three foundations is so great that whatever effort you put into statistical quality control doesn't work.... You really need to put your house in order first."

A week-long gemba kaizen can introduce major changes into a production operation, but it is important to standardize the changes so that managers and employees don't revert to the old ways of doing things, Imai stresses. "You have to change the mentality of both operators and managers. And you also need to develop many supporting systems.... You can change the way people do their jobs, but if you don't develop your internal systems to ensure the continuity, then after a week or so, people will be doing their jobs the same way they did them before.


"When you go to gemba and have a good look at how people do their jobs, you can identify many inadequate management systems. So gemba is like a mirror through which you look into the real capability of management



Quality Control Circles
by John Dean.

I have been involved with Quality Circles, Small Group Activities, and Group Problem Solving for a number of years and, over time, have come in contact with many of their variations used in the United States. So when I recently participated in a "Seminar and Plant Tour to Study Japanese Quality and Productivity'' by the Cambridge Corporation, I was especially interested in learning how Quality Control Circles operate in Japan. The trip included visits to six Deming Prize winning companies, and lectures from executives of four others. All had active QC Circles programs.


The first thing I noticed was the visibility of the QC Circles. In every plant we visited, there were small areas set aside for QC Circles to use. These areas were typically about 10 by 10 feet, with dividers separating them from the work area. The spaces would include a work table, some folding chairs, and a storage cabinet; walls were typically covered with various charts used by the group, such as Pareto Charts, basic Cause and Effect Diagrams (Fishbone/Ishikawa), Variable and Attribute Control Charts, Process Flow Diagrams, and the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Action) Cycle. In many cases the group's problem-solving progress was charted by a pictograph, often a road map leading from one location to another. (For example, a map from the local town to Mt. Fuji, with stops along the way representing the problem-solving steps of selection, observation, analysis, solution development, verification, implementation, and management presentation. A vehicle representing the Circle would be placed at the appropriate point of the group's "journey toward solving the problem.)


Commonly, this format was also used on a company-wide basis, with a centrally located pictograph showing the status of all QC Circles.

It is apparent that Japanese managers place considerable emphasis on employee recognition. Displayed on the QC Circle walls were the certificates, ribbons, badges, and other awards won by the Circle. Such awards are for many different things, such as the number of meetings herd, attendance rate, use of the Basic 7 tools, etc. There are also awards presented for successful competition with other Circles within the company and at local, regional, and national levels. Several companies had prominent company-wide displays of their QC Circles, with captioned photographs of each group and listings of the awards and honors won by that group.

The themes or problems selected by QC Circles fall in the areas of safety, housekeeping, productivity, and cost reduction, with emphasis placed on Opportunities for KAIZEN. Most QC Circles work on improving the way things are done or placed in the work shop, such as the optimum height of a tool rack, location of cleaning tools, type and amount of solder flux, angle of one's body when tightening a bolt, amount of grease on a bearing, time required to change a die, etc. Few QC Circles start out with goals to improve quality. Quality improvement does occur, however, as a result of the many small improvements (KAIZEN) made in the processes involved.

Most of the QC Circles in Japanese companies are similar to one another because they are patterned after the model set out by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) in 1962. In fact, there is a nationwide network of QC Circles administered by JUSE, which sponsors many seminars for QC Circles throughout Japan.

These seminars are a forum for Circle leaders and members to exchange ideas and learn how others are doing; more importantly, they provide an arena for Circles to compete and be judged on common criteria. After winning competitions on the company, local, regional, and national levels, the top groups travel to Tokyo and compete at an annual meeting, where the Circle for the Year for Japan is selected. This is an exceptional honor.


I was privileged to visit the Kobayase Kose Cosmetics Company, whose Miabi Circle had won a recent national competition. The Circle consisted of six women who worked on the assembly. They made an excellent 20-minute presentation of the Kose QC Circle program, of how their group was formed in 1977, the training and study undertaken, difficulties of changing membership over the years, some of the various problems worked on, and the journey through the competitions to the top prize. This group of workers, using a darkened room, two overhead projectors with screens, and a narrator, put on a show that would have delighted  a Holly wood producer. It was an impressive display.


In retrospect, I can understand why so many American managers have returned from visits to Japan with the conviction that Quality Control Circles are the key to quality Improvement. The QC Circles' visibility, the pride and attention given them by Japanese managers, and their obviously positive results are strong indicators of the power of this people-involvement program. QC Circles are an important part of the overall Total Quality Control efforts made by Japanese companies.

In TQC, the first and foremost concern is with the quality of people. And a company able to instill quality in its people is well on the road to producing high quality products.



Suggestion Systems
by Masaaki Imai Chairman, KAIZEN Institute


One of the most frequently discussed aspects of KAIZEN, as it is practiced in Japan, is the suggestion system. During the mid to late 70's, many Western businesspersons visited Japan to see suggestion systems in progress and, upon returning home, immediately rejuvenated their company's individual suggestion system or started QC circles.  Unfortunately, I have found that many companies undertaking such programs have failed to successfully institutionalize the suggestion system. This article is not aimed at pointing out what may have "gone wrong" with such efforts; rather, I will try to explain some points that might help readers better understand typical Japanese systems and be able to do KAIZEN on your existing system to make it work.


To begin, I believe it is important to understand that each company has its own type of suggestion system. There are three major types of company systems: Individual suggestion systems and no QC circles;

  1. QC circles and no individual suggestion systems; and
  2. QC circles and no individual suggestion systems; and
  3. QC circles and individual suggestion systems.


Many people do not realize the differences, with resulting confusion and conflict of information. The main thing to remember is that these systems must be compatible with each other, and with other systems in the company. A company is total system for KAIZEN must always be held in perspective, and equal attention must be paid to the process and the results.


Suggestion System Results

In Japan there are two ways to handle the results of suggestion systems. The first is to reward people monetarily for their financial contribution to the company, and the second is to recognize people for their efforts in making improvement. Western companies tend to reward for results quite frequently, but do not pay much attention to the efforts people put into their KAIZEN process.


The Japanese, on the other hand, think it is important to promote small improvements that focus on improving one's own work area. Safety is first, then quality, productivity, etc. To do this, small rewards (about $1.00 each) are generally given for every suggestion that has been implemented. This is done quickly so employees see the result of their effort right away. I would estimate perhaps as much as 99 percent of the suggestions do not have much economic impact on their own, but they do collectively.


For example, an employee might approach his/her boss and say, I have an idea for improvement." The boss will respond, ìI agree, why don't we try it and see if it works." Then after a couple of weeks have passed and the suggestion seems to have worked, the boss will ask the subordinate to fill out the suggestion form and submit it for the monetary reward. Any idea is good even if it saves a fraction of a second in process time; especially since those fractions add up. I know of one instance where a young couple made enough suggestions and received enough rewards to fully purchase their kitchen appliances prior to their wedding. That's a lot of cumulative improvement, and recognition for efforts well spent.

Do not take this idea as absolute certainly if an individual or group comes up with an idea that saves the company a lot of money, they can be rewarded accordingly.


Individual Suggestion Systems vs. Quality Circles

There is a different focus in individual suggestion systems than in QC Circles. A suggestion system generally tries to tap the individual's understanding of his/her own job. This can be enhanced by making employees much more aware of wastes or inefficiencies. People are taught in detail how to find these things by training in the simple checklists of KAIZEN, the "5S," the "3Mu," reversing, eliminating, etc. QC Circles, on the other hand, usually involve problem solving with various tools such as the Basic 7 or the New 7 tools.

Recognition of QC Circles is usually done by awarding gold, silver, or bronze medals to teams which meet the proper process-oriented criteria. The following list is an example of such criteria; each element is assigned a certain number of points (total of 100), and the teams scoring the most points win the medals.

  1. Number of meetings
  2. Participation rate
  3. Number of intermediate reports or QC Stories
  4. Use of Basic 7 or New 7 tools
  5. The extent that company policy was used in selecting projects
  6. Originality of approach
  7. Uniqueness of presentation
  8. Standardization and prevention of a problem's recurrence
  9. Amount of money saved


Other kinds of recognition are given by managers and executives sitting in and observing a QC Circle meeting. It is important, however, that managers and executives do not participate in the meeting; otherwise the team will be too controlled. After a project is complete, it is expected that a QC Circle will make at least one management presentation.



Supervising With The Personal Touch
Condensed from a lecture, by Mr. Sawada, Management Consultant Nagoya, Japan.

Toyota teaches its supervisors a management process that has proven to be very motivational for gemba, or the shop floor. Several elements are critical to the success of "Supervising With the Personal Touch," each one involving the empowerment of employees through supervisory activities and direction.



The first element is good communication between management and gemba; supervisory activities include:

  1. Holding meetings to explain management policies, making sure everyone understands the policies and how each person can contribute to them in a positive way.
  2. Holding follow-up meetings to make sure everyone in the shop is contributing to the management policies.
  3. Holding a daily "tool box meeting to make sure each person knows what the problems were last shift the plan for solving such problems, what new things are going to be introduced today, and what to look out for. This meeting is typically a lecture-type session with (Q&A at the end.
  4. Spending social time with employees ... going to breakfast or dinner with them, talking with them on a personal level, mailing birthday cards to them and their families ... in general, letting them understand that the supervisor cares about them and their well-being.
  5. Posting bulletin boards for employees so workers know what is happening and have a way to informally talk to others about things to buy or sell, etc. Using message cards to recognize employees who have done a good job.
  6. Posting storyboards in the gemba so everyone knows the team's progress toward meeting its goals.
  7. Sending employees to outside meetings. Morale & Awareness Improvement. This element should be part of every action the supervisor takes.


Specific activities or policies may include:

  1. Supporting company wide campaigns such as TQC, TPM, 5S, Corporate Identity, etc.
  2. Allowing family members to periodically visit the plant.
  3. Providing the opportunity for family members to make suggestions about the workplace.
  4. Taking employees in the field to study how customers use products, how competition sells products, etc.
  5. Sending employees to meetings or exhibitions, such as QCD or similar sessions.
  6. Providing recognition for a job well done; providing awards for meeting or surpassing specific goals.


Paying Attention to Needs

The importance here is obvious. Actions may include:

  1. Providing transportation allowances and living allowances (built into the Toyota benefits package).
  2. Providing recreation facilities. This is often done by employees' pooling of savings certificates from their improvement suggestions to purchase such items as Ping-Pong tables, pool tables, etc.
  3. Providing sleeping facilities for employees who have to put in very long days.
  4. If possible, providing a flex time system for working hours.
  5. Allowing salespeople to go home directly from sales calls.
  6. Improving salaries and bonuses.
  7. Providing training opportunities.
  8. Providing a system for self-reporting to the boss when things are going right-or when they are going wrong.
  9. Providing for sabbaticals to study at universities or even overseas.
  10. Helping entrepreneurs start their own businesses.
  11. Sending someone to help the family of an ill worker.


Participative Management


  1. Participation and teamwork by all employees is a key result of Personal Touch Supervision. Supervisors encourage such results by:
  2. Stressing group identity.
  3. Utilizing TQC methodologies.
  4. Doing as much consultation as possible on the subject of labor-management relations.
  5. Allowing labor to understand what the board of directors is doing.
  6. Providing for a flexible organization.
  7. Making sure cross-functional boundaries are broken down.
  8. Developing matrixed organizations for products.
  9. Encouraging small group activities.
  10. Providing for improved organizational development.
  11. Making work fun by putting people with common interests together.


Under this system, it is important for every supervisor to practice Personal Touch activities. It should be noted, however, that of the above listings, only about 80 percent of the items are actually practiced by any one Toyota supervisor. Another key element is that the Personal Touch system needs to be balanced with an ever-present sense that one should not infringe on people's private lives. The following Supervising With A Personal Touch is an important part of the concepts taught at KlA's Basics of KAIZEN 11 Seminar, which utilizes a model car assembly workshop to show how to establish standards.

In the workshops, participants assume roles at the gemba (shop floor) as workers, supervisors, and inspectors. Working as a team can be enjoyable, for workers and supervisors real-life example combines Personal Touch with KAIZEN concepts, as applied to the human resources side of the organization:

When one of his key employees began coming to work late, the supervisor met with the employee, asked him if he understood what effect his tardiness was having on his team and the workplace, and asked why he continued to come in late even though he understood such effects. The employee explained that his child had recently become asthmatic; having regular nighttime attacks which kept the parents up and caused the father to oversleep in the mornings. Upon questioning, he also explained that the asthma was apparently caused by their home's infestation by a small insect, which the family did not know how to get rid of. So the supervisor investigated how to eradicate the insect, the employee followed the prescribed extermination procedures, and the asthma problem disappeared-the employee was able to get to work on time again.

The above example illustrated several activities of Supervising With A Personal Touch:

  1. The supervisor realized the difficulty of maintaining quality first if employees have to be shuffled to accommodate one person's tardiness.
  2. The result, tardiness at work, was attributed to a process which needed to be changed.
  3. The employee was reminded of his responsibility to the system and as a critical member needed by the entire organization.
  4. The supervisor was non-judgmental, letting the facts come out so the problem could be exposed and analyzed.
  5. The supervisor "asked why five times" to determine the root cause of the problem.
  6. The supervisor helped set a standard to prevent the problem from recurring.


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What is Kaizen