Kaizen critics on Innovation: Sustaining Innovation is not Kaizen!

The rapid change of the world makes innovation a lethal weapon to become a big part of solution to bring about countries, companies, or communities to a useful change that hopefully take them to the top the leading pack in the world. Little research on the topic could give many hints that innovation is the key. There are now disruptive innovation, cultural innovation, reverse innovation and other terms that use innovations as the key.

However, the overwhelming topic of innovation that filled the market has overshadowed some important not so radical, slow and not extreme change that comes from continuous improvement that actually be the backbone of many leading companies in the world. The power of kaizen culture which embedded in top leader of the pack has been uncover in the book The high-velocity edge by Steven Spear seems to be undermined by the amount of innovation books and its varieties on the market.

Java Printing

I am not against innovation because I understand that without innovation no companies could ever bare their existence let alone leading. innovation is the key. I really enjoy reading books on innovation especially books by Clayton M. Christensen which really is the result of his in-depth research and reflection about the world of innovation.

My argument about innovation is that most of the books on innovations discussed about big changes that will lead to strategic/big step. My take on current innovation paradigm is that innovation is not enough because we still need kaizen. Some people say that kaizen is innovation also, but it really is not. The rule of thumbs is what your mind perceived what innovation is, reduce it by factor of at least 100.

When for example Clayton M. Christensen tried to detail innovation into a more elaborate by dividing it further into Disruptive and Sustaining Innovation. People get confuse because first, where is then Kaizen? Second,  a strange combination of words is used (Sustaining Innovation!).

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The Innovator’s Dilemma (Christensen 1997) identified two distinct categories—sustaining and disruptive—based on the circumstances of innovation.

  1. Sustaining Innovation : when the race entails making better products that can be sold for more money to attractive customers—we found that incumbents almost always prevail.
  2. Disruptive Innovation :when the challenge is to commercialize a simpler, more convenient product that sells for less money and appeals to a new or unattractive customer set—the entrants are likely to beat the incumbents. This is the phenomenon that so frequently defeats successful companies. It implies, of course, that the best way for upstarts to attack established competitors is to disrupt them. (Low end disruption and New market disruption)

Confusion happen among the practitioner of whether Sustaining Innovation is Kaizen because it is also about making better products to attractive customers. Additionally, two words of sustaining and innovation are both contradictory in nature in a way that when innovation happen, change happen and it moves the object of innovation to some future state.Thus actually it is inappropriate to give the name “sustain”. Sustain means almost equally to maintain. Hence it means the innovation going nowhere but only maintain and hence going nowhere.

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History wise, the Kaizen term exist already since 1986 which is kaizen/continuous improvement which small incremental improvement. However, it seems that the founder of kaizen concept had predicted that confusion between Innovation and Kaizen will likely to happen.

This big misconception has been cleared before by Masaaki Imai in 1986, a notable quality philosopher and practitioner and the founder of Japanese consulting company namely Kaizen Institute or best known by the west as the father of Continuous Improvement. Misconception of innovation happen when people associate immediately innovation with improvement. The truth is that innovation indeed is improvement but improvement is not just innovation. Improvement consist of Kaizen and Innovation in which until the next innovation, kaizen will improve the system little by little.

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From the graph it is clear that Kaizen perfected Innovation. It means that any types of Innovation whether it is disruptive innovation, cultural innovation, reverse innovation will be make perfect by following through with Kaizen afterwards. Kaizen will target improvement until next innovation.

Hence it is very clear that innovation itself is insufficient to create a winning edge and that innovation coupled with relentless kaizen become the ultimate answer. This is why in my opinion, despite of the effort to rally with other companies toward Innovation from generating, managing, until applying innovation many firms still happen to be in the lower league. Because Innovation without Kaizen is just like “Pound Saving, Penny Foolish”. It seems good that you get to save many Pounds, but other companies take care also every Pennies possible with Kaizen and overtime they who cares for both thrives.

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Why Getting Better is the only way…

In the world that keeps moving faster and faster, everyone is challenged. The constant velocity of  change set pace to an even greater need to become better and better at a multiplied rate than before. Innovation has become a sacred word that even books on the topic become hunted by entrepreneur, managers, CEOs, even daily house mother that just try to run a business while baby sitting her children.

As country against country and organizations against each others to take the lead in the competition, it seems that the race to become better seems to take additional burden on personal level. It is because organization behaves as organism because indeed humans drives it and when organization would like to become better, humans inside it has to become better as well.

baby while making his first steps 

“You learn something everyday if you pay attention” ~ Ray LeBlond

The pressure that will build into personal level is actually where the challenge is the biggest. In this micro level , with the already many life problems that faced by each ones of us, loads of responsibility to improve are put on our back by the necessity of organization to improve. Even it is understandable that if organization is not improving, at the end we will have the consequence by having much more problems (such as layoff, salary cut,etc.). Thus this becomes non-negotiable deal that led to rapid change in our lives. Those who can learn fast will adapt to the organization and those who do not improve will be left alone.

“Each day learn something new, and just as important, relearn something old.” ~ Robert Brault

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My remarks is that to keep pace not only we have to learn something to get better. Getting better means not only to learn something new, but also to never hesitate to re-learn and most importantly unlearn the things that is of no value for the future.

Education consist mainly of what we have unlearned.” ~ Mark Twain

Where productivity comes from? Relation between Quality, Lean, Efficiency

From my last post about over months ago, we have grasped the idea and underlying concept of Lean. That the divine purpose of Lean is to give value to customer. Lean means providing value to customer.

5 principles of Lean

In previous post also, we know that there are fundamentally 5 Principles of Lean which are:

  1. Specify value for the customer
  2. Integrate Value Stream
  3. Create Flow
  4. Pull from the customer
  5. Aim for perfection

Looking deeply between the initial definition and the 5 principles of Lean. It seems logically correct that providing value to customer is indeed will be achieved through all the 5 principles of Lean. However, this indeed is also a deception for many.

Not that I say those principles are useless, on the other hand, people has to know those principles by heart. Despite of that, in my opinion, 5 Principles of Lean are not comprehensive enough in serving higher purpose of providing value to customer because it somehow lacks of comprehensiveness. If we look at those all 5 principles and pondering on those points, we can have assumptions that Lean is all about efficient of operations to provide value by means of faster, responsive and flexible operation by implementing integrated value stream, flow, pull and then aim for perfection.

Java Printing

These points have failed to serve the true comprehensive definition of lean which is providing value to customer because it simply do not pay attention to “quality” matter. In fact, none of the 5 principles seems to talk about quality (poka yoke, inspection, culture of quality).  This had led many to miss-understanding that lean is just efficiency (value stream, flow, pull). Lean comprise efficiency indeed, but not only that. It is also quality and all that is required to bring value to customers.

Because as we come back to the true definition of lean that is providing value to customer, we realize that Lean defintion is larger than 5 principles of lean itself.

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That ambiguous translation from basic definition of Lean into the principles of Lean, make a miss-conception about achieving Lean in relation with improvement culture. Improvement has twofold and people have always been mistaken when talk about improvement. Lean improvement as perceived by most people as working toward a more efficient operations is preferable in most case because it gives a sense of boost to ongoing operations and increasing productivity. On the other hand,   quality improvement sometimes not as popular because for many it just don’t seems boost their production quota. So, they tend to prefer efficient improvement compare to quality improvement.

People has mistakenly grasped the concept of improvement that they tend to associate improvement to efficiency because by and far, it will boost productivity quickly. This is bad in a long term because quality is stronger and has a bigger impact in a sense that on the long term, focus on quality improving productivity and increasing quality. Both quality and efficiency however have similarity in the need to specify customer value and strive for perfection.

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Sometimes we deeply understand about the need for efficiency improvement because it directly impact our output in short term. But those who forget to deal with improving quality is in the long term will be definite loser because while you neglect quality, others not. They improve productivity through both quality (inspection, poka yoke devices) and efficiency (integrate value stream, flow, pull)  improvements of operations which give them a twofold advantage to their productivity increase compare to those who only care about increasing efficiency.

So, I want to again stress that the 5 principles of Lean is in fact very important to remember. But one shall never forget the in-comprehensiveness of the principles and that the fundamental definition of lean is always comes first.

Lean is providing value to the customers.

How to built Quality into a process: a lesson from Shigeo Shingo

Lately, I am quite busy and overwhelmed because of so many things I have to do right now. From doing many reports in my workplace as well as continuing a research project for university. However, I really so into and passionate in doing the research project particularly because the topic that I work in is both my passion and my work. I am now researching theories about Quality especially how to create a culture of quality and found a classic book from Shigeo Shingo which I fall in love with. The book is titled Zero Quality Control. I admire the wisdom he has at that time that even many people or companies today might not know about it yet. Here I will share some of his important view on built-in quality.

Young business woman presenting colorful charts and diagrams

In summary, he elaborate on his journey on finding the most effective inspection method to built quality into the process. Those three inspection methods are all currently use all over the world right now, but as he said personally that sometimes people do not know what is the right one for them and in what situation they have to use it. Those inspection systems are:

    1. Judgment inspections (inspections that discover defects)
    2. Informative inspections (inspections that reduce defects)
    3. Source inspections (inspections that eliminate defects)

Next several weeks I will try to explain what is the really the difference among them. Additionally, it is worth to mentioned here that Shigeo Shingo give a basic recipe of how to built quality into your process.Those are:

  1. Use source inspection
  2. Always use 100 percent inspections rather than sampling inspections.
  3. Minimize the time it takes to carry out correction action when abnormalities appear.
  4. Human workers are not infallible. people are human and set up effective poka-yoke devices accordingly as control functions.

Tea and Productivity

Several days ago, I walked down to city center on Saturday morning to get myself a little exercise in the weekend. When I walk, I like to pick new routes, so besides exercising, I could get a totally new refreshing perspective of the neighborhood where I cross. This time, I went through some roads and alleys that I have never had gone through before and in the middle of my walk, a store window caught my attention.

Through the store window, I could saw many kinds of teapots displayed behind the window. From outside the store, I could look into the store these big tubes contained tea leaves. My curiosity made me to enter the store to just find what this interesting store could offer me.

The Tea Palace

I entered the store and it is so wonderful that I really felt like I am in a library of tea. The store called Le Palais des Thes. First of all, when you entered, there will be various tea leaves that were ready to be smelled (you choose tea by smelling it!). These tea that come from China, Japan, Afrika, India and this is in fact only a glimpse of what this store could offered. Further back of the store, they have a whole lot many tea leaves, teapots and books about tea. Just what a person need to travel the world of tea.

From visiting this store, I could understand more about tea and decided to bring two distinct tea types from Afrika. From it, I also know that tea is beyond what traditionally be a medicine to increase condition of our health. For me, I mainly drink tea because it is refreshing in non-destructive way. The interesting part that lends itself to an increase in productivity is that compare to coffee, tea has more benefits.

Asian couple having coffee on home porch

First of all, I want to once again correct the assumption that caffeine in tea or coffee will help us during our work to be more productive by increasing alertness.

Peter Rogers, professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, after years of studying caffeine, he sees no evidence to suggest that it improves mental alertness.

However, if we know the right time to drink tea or coffee, a good effect will be obtained.

Professor Andy Smith, an expert in occupational health psychology at Cardiff University said that Caffeine is rightly prized by workers for combating fatigue, with a 2002 study of US Navy Seals showing the drug’s ability to override severe sleep deprivation. What caffeine does is to get you back on form. “We use the term ‘restoration of function’. The effect of caffeine is to restore your function closer to normal,” he says.

Therefore, caffeine can still has contribution to our performance to help us when we have fatigue at work. Additionally, hot beverages have numerous advantages. Here is some facts about contribution of Hot beverage in our workplace whether it is office work or home office.

  • 61% of employees feel that their employees cares about their well-being if they provide good hot beverage options such as in office coffee and tea.
  • 43% reported experiencing a positive effect on their work productivity.
  • 90% of decision makers and 85% of employees believe that quality coffee and tea can contribute to increased productivity and morale.

Both tea and coffee are a complex drinks. However, Tea could give better contribution in many ways.

First of all, tea contains Theanine, which researchers argue has a relaxing effect and has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Secondly, Randy Murray blog in his article “Simple Productivity Task of The Day:Make A cup of Tea” really point out a benefit of tea psychologically. He ’ve found that the process of making tea is also soothing and ritualistic, which is good for helping him slow down and regain focus. To learn simple ritual of creating tea in your office your could see it below.

Just This from Dave Caolo on Vimeo.

Additionally, you can better awake when you drink a cup tea compare to drink a cup of coffee . Yes! It seems not true because every time we drink coffee we can get the effect of waking up instantly right? It is apparently true that coffee will give you more instant effect. However, it turns out that drinking tea will give us longer wake up time because the way caffeine works in tea is different than coffee. When drinking tea, caffeine inside the tea will slowly be absorbed by our body and this will lead to long consumption of caffeine for our body which will keep us awake for quite a longtime.

Hence, those three (3) simple benefits that I tried to highlight (reduce blood pressure, psychologically soothing due to it’s ritualistic nature and better works of caffeine) will give more than enough  for you incorporate tea to your daily productivity agenda.

Join Green Movement in Urban Area

Last post, in my personal article focusing on plastic bag, I have elaborated the importance of the role of Industry in determining the progress of  transformation into green and sustainable living. In addition to the Industry effort, we as a customers in any supply chain, a human that lives in the earth and a parent that will have to pass on the living environment to our future generation, has an obligation to the progress of green and sustainability of living around us.

For those of you that live in Urban area where people bustle everyday, tall buildings occupying most spaces  and transportation seems never stop their activities, the hustles will be more intensive than people that live in suburban or small city area. However, I can convince you that it is possible to still join Green Movement to preserve the good side of the city that we have know and to fix those that have already been destructed by pollution and other matters. Below are several tips for you to get to move and participate in small act to make our city Greener and more comfortable for a living.

1. Electricity and Water Use Awareness

By saving energy and water, we actually will in the end save our money.The US Department of Energy has statistically calculated the hundreds of dollars savings that could be achieved by smartly using energy and water. From Coffee Maker, Refrigerator, Fan, Clock Radio, Cell Phone Charger, Personal Computer until Printer, there are still a lot of possibility that we can cleverly reduce our consumption.

One great example is to turn off the lights if you know that you will leave the room for more than 15 minutes or you can also put a sensor to further save electricity. Another is sharing fridge. Sharing fridge seems have a little impact, but in reality, the cost of electricity from fridge itself is consider as large in comparison to other home appliances. So, instead of buying small fridge for each of rooms in your house or apartment, you can plan to share a fridge.

2. Buy Green Products

Eating organic, free-range, local and fair trade are also a great options that will definitely have a positive impact. However, because those products are rather expensive, an alternative is to to eat less meat, use canvas bag when you can, use recyclable plastic bag and buy from your local to get anything from fishes and meats to vegetables or fruits and still contribute to environment.

Buying green products will also unconsciously lead you to healthier living by avoiding more and more consumption of junk food which have bad effects that will later take away money from your pocket due to obesity, diabetes, depression and nutrient deficiencies.

3. Urban Farming

The previous two tips are all about getting better at managing what we already have. The next tips will be about making small changes that have a big impact. It starts with Urban farming. It is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city.

Urban Farming is very fun activity to do. If you have a garden in your house, you can use it as your own farm. Even if you have only a roof (flat roof ones), you could turn it into a space for farming. Urban Farming is so easy as you can simply use your window as a medium for farming which Urban Farming Communities called windowfarms.

Urban Farming communities is now everywhere in the world, you can find communities around you with the like minded purpose and the good thing is that all that effort you spend in your farm will be fruitful as you can sell it as an organic product through Urban Farm communities and organizations. The organization also has good resources for education from methods of urban farming until ways to plant a certain plant and dealing with issues like watering and soon.

4. Cycle to Work

Another fun way is Bike to Work scheme. Using bicycle to go to work is a very effective method to achieved so many things. It is not only contributing to a more greener and sustainable environment, but also saving money for gasoline and make you more healthy. For some people, indeed, Cycle to work could also save life.

If you have a road bike, you can go to work riding it and take a shower in your office and you will be fresh and energetic to start your day. Another good alternative that I found very compelling is to use Folding Bike. I love folding bike because it gives commuters so much flexibility on the way. There are many combination of method that can be done using folding bike to get us to workplace in no time.

5. Change our Mindset from “WANT” to “NEED”

Our mindset is a powerful thing. Have you heard about feeling lonely in a crowd ? This is exactly what mindset is able to do. It can make you happy or unhappy when you decide that the circumstances seem to prove that you should have it. The fundamental change in mindset could change the way we behave and how it affects our surrounding.

To change mindset, the key is to know what our currently mindset is toward a particular situation. Oftentimes, in relations with buying or shopping, we as a customer has been automatically set our mindset into “WANT mindset”. The reason is, this is the right mindset that all retailer shops want customers to have so that customers will more likely to buy their products.

So, now we should change our mindset to NEED instead of WANT. Think before buy is a good step to take. Do some researches before buying anything instead of getting tempted on the spot when you see a very nice advertisement. Go online, watch videos, read articles and make sure that you purchase good stuffs that you need. Then, you will be surprise by how much stuffs you really need and how much stuffs you already have that are actually got there and hanging around since you first bought it.

Transformation to Sustainability : “Green” tagline is only for the Customers.

Several years ago, human was so interested in the extraction of nature to support the life of people in the earth. It was before the decreasing supply of nature due to over-extraction that the necessity to find alternative of sources to make the earth more sustainable take place. Today, we see in many places taglines of green living, sustainable earth or care nature that urge people to preserve and even cultivate again our nature that has been destructed by extraction without control.

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This week, I went shopping as part of my regular “ weekly things to do” except, this time I got in into a very long queue line in the supermarket’s cashier. Then I realized that it is 5p.m. and as usual in this time many people going back from work and stop in supermarket for quick shopping for dinner or just grab some foods for their stock. In this long queue, I saw a plastic bag that I took the picture of it. During the queue, I reflected in my mind about how this plastic bag could be there in the supermarket, when people outside have put a large banners and costly commercials of how people should live by “going green”.

What caught me right away first of all is how the plastic bag could be there, but then having take a look into the detail, I could also see a text that stated Reduce Use of Plastic Bag..Refuse, Reuse, Recycle”. Those two reasons are quite provoking to start a post in this blog for it is an example of going to the wrong way from kaizen or continuous improvement. An example of a good and right  intention that wrongly planned as well as executed.

So, why not begin from looking at the supply chain. All products will have the same flow which basically begin from Supplier to Manufacturer to Logistics and at the end to Retailer that directly has contact with Customers that is us. Then, we have an issue that plastic bag is bad for the nature as we have seen before in the text located in the plastic bag ( “Reduce Use of Plastic Bag..Refuse, Reuse, Recycle”). From this, it is clear that the plastic bag is bad for nature, and that people should refuse it.

Then the question came up of why they place the decision on customers? Does customers do have bigger impacts to preserving nature by making choice of use or not use plastic bags?

I would say that if plastic bag is bad and customers should refuse it, then it should not be produced in the first place.

Supply Chain

By not producing plastic bag at all, customers will not be blamed for choosing plastic bag. Today, it seems like buying a plastic bag  is taboo for customers and plastic bag is the temptation that will always exist. It should not be like that, eliminating plastic bag from the early in supply chain could substantially decrease the problem since at the end of the day there is no plastic bag that could be bought by a customer.

Frankly, the current situation that happen is that customers go on shopping to a certain shop, they buy their product that they wish to buy, and then at the end either the cashier will ask “do you want a plastic bag ?” or in the cashier you can pick one. Either one you will have temptation to use plastic bag and most probably some people will somehow choose to use it.

Go Green. Hand with words cloud about environmental conservation

This is a system that has a flaw, if “green” means not using plastic bag, why you have plastic bag offered to you that tempted a customer to use it. Can you imagine one time, a customer that life 2 km from the shopping area and buy 3 kg of whatever it is and he/she has to carry all of his/her stuffs from the shopping area to his/her home by walking? it is certain for this type of person that if the plastic bag is offered to them, they will definitely use it.Additionally, it is not rare that some companies even put a blame on this poor guy by saying that if he knew already he has a pretty far distance to travel with huge amount of weight he should by himself be prepared by bringing a backpack or trolley.

But it seems still this solution has its flaw because since when the customer become a servant? customer is a king while the best is a partner. but it is not rational for the one who will sell product to customers to blame customers for their living condition.

It is true that apparently the existence of plastic bag is for helping this kind of person that really need to carry their stuffs. But, going green means not only customer being pushed by all the supply chain to act in terms of taking step in making a choice, but all of them that is inside the supply chain has to commit together in the green movement. Just imagine, if Supermarkets determined that they will not buy plastic bag from Logistics that is not green or not recyclable or biodegradable or even they will not use plastic at all and  buy other alternative bag, then there will be no customers that will be blame. Imagine that Logistics will also commit of not delivering these plastics and later the manufacturer will not produce it and at the end the suppliers will not supply it. Then there will be no finger pointing about who is wrong because the plastic bag simply do not exist anymore.

In plastic bag industry that relate closely with supermarkets, taglines of green line actually still aim solely toward customers. But we can take a very very nice and successful act from several other industry that prove to be work.

A company or industry that decide to support the conversion to green and sustainable living has two options:

  • Increasing the awareness of customers then produce product
  • Produce a product and then offer to customers

In the first approach, it bases on presumption that customers’ awareness of green living could influence what product that they will buy and this is one of the many ultimate reason of not beginning the transformation to green product early in the supply chain but instead delaying it by forcing customers to suffer by giving them a right and wrong choice.

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The second one, is to invent a product and offer it to customers. Basically, when we think about a product, there are two kind of how manufacturers could make a product. First type is making a product by looking at the market needs, getting the voice of customers, trying to figure out what they need and improve the product based on it. This is the first approach based on. Then, there is a second one which the customer has no idea about the product that they need at all.It is totally unimaginable for customers that before this product being produced and sold, customers have no idea that they will actually will need this and use it. (like computers, ipad, hand phone, and other product)

Many companies have gone into trap in this first approach which will bring a suffering to customers for a very long terms by trying to make them realize that green is the way of living.

Some companies is already following the second approach to transformation to a green living. There is some good examples, but let me just take two of the most important one. The first one is in the field of energy that basically try to invent green power that will later replace fossil power in the future and also in the field of transportation that replace oil power with electro or hybrid power. Both of this has taken the second approach of offering to customers a fundamentally new product that customers have not yet even imagined before.

Green power will make customers not feeling guilty anymore of using fossil power without clear alternative in front of them that they can have a much better and greener alternative. It is also the same for hybrid power. Customer will have the options to contribute to the sustainability buy buying it instead of gasoline power. For both cases, it is not easy for both industry to innovate into green power and also hybrid power since it has very big risk of replacing gasoline supply chain with hybrid supply chain and fossil with green power.

One example is Toyota hybrid car. the company has philosophy of making customers their first priority and not letting the customers to suffer between choices that they should make. The company realize that it is not right that the customers should resist themself in buying a particular cars, but it is the manufacturers that should come with alternative that still serve the same purpose but will be more incline toward caring of environment. In the first place, Toyota didn’t know that Hybrid will ever become alternative that will works, even the company didn’t know at the time of first launched. But the brave initiative for the purpose of serving both customers and the sustainability of the world leads to a solution that works for both releasing the suffering of choice that customers’ have and also contributing to sustainability of the world and society.

This way of thinking and brave decision toward green and sustainability should also emerge in other industry because to begin with the green transformation, it takes big courage from manufacturers and enormous believe that the company themselves has a will and able to contribute to bring society to green and sustainable living by starting by themselves with their own innovative product or solution. Once a manufacturer has a strong believe on this, they are most unlikely to claim to the world that they are a green and sustainable companies but what they are actually doing is putting the customers as a verdict to put a blame on.