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.

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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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Learning to Learn : The Feynman Technique for Productivity

Researchers have been recently analyzing about organizational learning so vigorously because the many facts that proves that organization that could learn faster than their competition could lead the race. One of it is the works of a notable researcher from MIT, Steven. J. Spear in his book The High Velocity Edge. He mentioned that the top organizations that he investigated could lead their industry year in and out because the learning capability. It means success comes not only because of a good performance or planning, but more accurate is when learning and learning it fast.

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brain (Photo credit: TZA)

The value of learning could not be emphasized further by human as every parents sent their children to school and for some until university. The result expected is beyond a paper that prove the child to be graduate as an engineer or a doctor, but to prove that the child can actually learn. In school and/or university, people learn how to learn because it is no doubt that those who could learn faster has a big probability of getting way easier in this life and be more successful than those people who are considered a hard learner.

Feynman  is an influential theoretical physicist and his works is radically changing the world. one of his works is in the development of atomic bomb as an important assistant. He is also considered a pioneer  in the field quantum computing and introducing the concept of nano-technology. Behind his successful career, he shares with the world a method called Feynman Technique to teach how to learn anything faster.

 

Productivity cannot be separated from learning as by learning, one can devise a thousands of ways to reach a goal and hence increase their productivity. Leaning to learn as a way to become more productive is very deep concept. In a sense that being more productive involves updating and enhancing our foundational concept and remake the structure of our minds in learning things. This knowledge inside our head will at the end gives additional capability to us to think about probable improvement of methods that will later increase productivity of our desired goals.

To get to know who is Feynman:

Story of Scientific Management Guru: Back to the Roots of Scientific Management with Frederick Winslow Taylor

While his name is not known to most people, his impact on the 20th century was quite profound. He is Frederick Winslow Taylor, a management theorist that focus on the labor process. He is the backbone of today’s management by the use of science. His works started blooming in an era after companies have become more than a mere limited project, but unlimited by the boundary of time and that in this time, industrialization is on the move.

Companies were growing in scope and racing to reap the benefits of industrialization. They were so starving in harvesting benefits of industrialization. In that time, companies need much more labor than ever to be able to produce products that made possible by the industrialization.However, even labor is many, a fundamental problem is emerging that needs an answer, how do we get labor to work more to ensure maximum output?

His works begin with many writings in the theory of work that mainly focusing on  finding the way of controlling the motion of workers to obtain highest maximum output for what company pay for wages.

Even all that he has created  is not fully acceptable in todays modern era but many of his concepts become a root for current management practice. His controversial concept such as the concept of soldiering that workers didn’t work hard enough is totally rejected by lean thinking that fundamentally held a strong believe that worker is good and therefore most of error come from engineer or the architect of the system that most of the time have to put to blame.

Soldiering held a believe that in a majority of cases the man deliberately plant to do as little as he possibly can to turn out far less work than he is well able to do in may instances to do not more than 1/3 or 1/2 of a proper day’s work. ~ Taylor

Proper day’s work is a maximum level of output humanly possible or  a fair day’s work. when worker is not physically possible to reach this, he fired them. He argued that soldiering was possible because company management does not even know how much work can be extracted from workers. once to make a stubborn man who refuse to make any improvement to achieve this fair days work he cut his wages.

Industriearbeiter Giesserei // foundry industry employees

Taylor’s goal was to take knowledge work from the worker and put it in the hands of management to be used as control of workers. He himself called this method as Scientific Management. However, his method on full reliance solely on management let to the born of shopfloor expert which is industrial engineer. However, as people said that too much is never good, the role of management in shopfloor is too dominating that even in the development of work instruction, management get a majority of decision on the content and organization of it which is fundamentally different than now

But his famous real contribution besides of his many controversial concept is his management theories and the concept of time study.

There are many and different ways for come at doing the same things, there is always one method and one implement which is better than any of the rest. and this one best method and one best implement can only be discovered through a scientific study of an analysis of all the methods in use.

He stated that no job is to simple or to complex. In fact, in he has spent 26 years only for figuring out the best way to cut metal. but in other examples, many simple works can be rationalized as well.

Some of his wise words are never more appropriate now compare to at his time:

We can see our forest vanishing, our water-powers going to waste.. the end of our coal and iron is in sight. But the larger waste of human effort, which go on everyday through such of our acts as are blundering, ill-directed or inefficient are less-visible, less tangible and all but vaguely appreciated.. ~ Frederick Taylor

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.

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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.

Small Changes, Big Achievement!

I just read a blog by Beyond Lean that is so insightful. In his post, with the title Small Change vs. Large Change, he highlighted about how Paul Akers at FastCap often talks about 2 seconds kaizen.

I have read Paul Akers’ Book about 2 Second Kaizen which describes his personal journey on creating kaizen culture in his small to medium size business (at that time). Following my current reading on Workplace Management by Taiichi Ohno, this post really spark a light for me to set out this post about small changes.

Company has been the center of all attention for decades. But scaling further to a level of personal kaizen, big achievement by means of doing small changes can definitely be a roadmap to improvement. I would imagine if we are not only focus on doing productive works but in addition to that, we apply 2 seconds kaizen on how we went throughout our day.

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It has been acknowledged that doing the right things before doing things right will elevate productivity in our lives by preventing doing the wrong things. But truly I said that bigger achievement is attainable by performing small changes in doing things right. Now I invite you, my fellow travellers, let us set for ourselves to do everyday at least 2 achievements (productivity) but as complementary also do 2 seconds of kaizen ( improvement in method of doing things).

Supermarket Stocktaking, Happiness in Working and a Lesson of Variation

I am considered myself as a kind of person who is so interested on listening more than speaking. For me, being able to listen to ideas, a glimpse of someone else’s life experiences or a feeling of someone about something is so inspiring. I can learn from the story and get an idea of things that I had not realize before because I just never thought it would be possible, never experienced it myself, or simply didn’t know that such a thing could exist. By listening more, I can open myself to the presumption world that I previously held  to a new perception of the world as I listen to the story of people around me.

This post is referring to my comment on my dialogue with one of my friends. He has an interesting experience in which I had not any experience on  being employed in the type of industry he was in. It was all begin in a totally normal day. After lunch, we had a normal afternoon chat that suddenly led to a story of his previous employment in Supermarket Industry. Due to my curiosity, I started to ask probing questions that led him to tell his own experience working in a supermarket with a role as an assistant store manager with most activities that deal with audits.

What caught my attention was when he talked about his experience in stock taking procedure and penalty that he did in his time (and I believe still many also have the same principles even until this time). He told me that in his company, stock deviation from the ideal value of difference between beginning of month and end of the month in comparison with actual reality value of difference between beginning of month and end of the month difference will be assigned to store employees. It means that, if beginning of month stock minus sold product in that month ( which this become ideal end of month stock) is not the same as actual counting at the end of month stock, then the difference between ideal and actual counting in the form of amount of money will be paid together by employees from their salary to substitute lost products .

When he told this, I quickly recalled a wise words from Dr.Deming. Then, I found the exact same story that happen in Deming’s book titled “Out of The Crisis” in 1982. Deming has already elaborated what is wrong with this kind of system setup and why management not only in manufacturing industry but in all industry, even government, education, and any systems that has management on top of it has to learn the knowledge of variation.

Stock counting at the end of the month, if deviated from the ideal amount, can cause from many factors. the accuracy of inventory system, security of store from thieves, logistics in store, and still many other factors. It is indeed easy to directly attributing lost of stocks to employees for replacing the money that lost with the assumption that all lost rooted in the negligence of employees to prevent it from lost without looking into details about the root cause. However, by doing this, it is also easy to get trap into a bad system where everyone is dissatisfied, work is stressful, and at the end surviving will be impossible if not very difficult without sacrificing employees.

Actor businesswoman express sadness isolated in white

Imagine a staff that start to work in a company with a good pride. He and the company both have an expectation on both sides. The employee starts with a willingness to contribute to the company maybe even thinking that this company that he will start to work will be even better, fun and fulfilling. It is also the same good expectation that come from the company that hired this employee, because after all resources available in company’s labor pool has been filtered, this man has the best fit with the company to help reaching for the company’s goal. The new employee is ready to grow with the company and contributing the best effort possible. Isn’t that exactly what we feel when we want to start working in a new company? Excited! Happy! Want to prove ourselves! and having better a time? Sadly, this man so shocked to find the fact that even though he begin his job by working as hard as he can with the will of contributing his maximum effort and with their own heart and soul trying to be nice to every customers coming to the shop, he finds himself at the end of the month getting paid with less salary than promised and that they ought to receive it due to stocks lost that they don’t have any ideas at all of  how it could be lost, why they have to be the one who take the risk of something they just don’t have any idea about, and the fact that he cannot improve or doing anything about it.

Drawing from the world of manufacturing, this could be seen as assigning defect of products to the workers that works in assembly line. Whenever there are defects, put the blame on workers with the reason that workers are the one who actually works assembling all parts into a product. This obsolete philosophy have proven to be a downfall of manufacturing industries before Japan could set the pace again and followed by a reparation to systems of managing manufacturing in other countries and companies.

People in management should as Deming urge long time ago and yet still valid, realize that there are two types of variation (natural/normal variation and assignable/special variation) Classifying defects in case of lost product in supermarket into these two kinds of variation classification will give us more insights. If a defect/lost product happen, manager should be able to determine if this will attributable to workers/store employees or to system that managed by management. The action directly blaming workers for a system problem then is not a wise act of management because normal variation and special variation should be handled in different ways. .To learn more about differentiating this, I would suggest reading “Out of The Crisis” or “The New Economics” by Deming.

Young business woman presenting colorful charts and diagrams

As we came to know that those defects or lost of products are caused by system, then improvement to a system could reduce the lost of product. In relation with supermarket system, let’s take one defect example of lost product. Previous assumption is that employees should watch closely everyone on the store so that no product is lost, but employees indeed can be forget or not paying attention to someone stealing because fatigue which so normal. What is not normal is to assign tasks that obviously normal people with normal capability cannot do and give them penalty for it.  In fact, lost product happen also because the environment provided thieves to steal some products despite of the hardworking that employees have done in preventing it. This environment setup is management job. A system should be setup by management to prevent lost from happening by creating a better environment for employees to work and a better system to prevent lost of products. Usual flow is that mistakes that management makes is attributed that should be management responsibilities (system design and improvement) are all assigned to employees.

Reblog : Forget about Resolutions, Focus on the Process

Post of Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey Blog caught my attention as I was thinking about my New Year Resolution. Tim is a Lean practitioner and the owner of a very inspiring blog that I have followed even before I started to write a blog. I read his article where he wrote about an interesting  topic which is so closely related with personal kaizen about self improvement.

In his article which has published on Tuesday, January 1 2013, he pointed out about common natural tendencies that we do as part of our new year. In new year, people hope for a better year. People as usual, starts to set their own resolutions as a target for the new year. This resolutions that people has created in new year will not bring anything significant. This is because setting resolutions is not more important as focusing on the process of reaching resolutions itself as Tim’s argued.

I positively agree with his arguments and appreciate his unique perception to Resolution and in addition, he also provide the reader by giving reader a way to use philosophical framework of PDCA to come to personal improvement.

In my opinion, a resolution is a mere shadow or number without actions because a  resolution in itself do not make someone become better. In other words, as Deming has before addressed using a simulation called Red Bean Experiments, resolutions/goals/aims will not mean anything without a complete and exact methods to achieve it.

Thus, it is then a good step to begin a new year by setting goals without forgetting to determining the methods to achieve these goals. And only after that, we could be sure that we will improve our life quality as a human.