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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What can we learn from Indonesia’s Governor Jokowi : Leadership and System

Jokowi is a name that is probably unknown for people that lives outside Indonesia. It not uncommon that his name was not being heard, because even in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, his name could only be heard for first time in the late of 2012 where people started to get awareness of him. Currently, he is a newly elected Indonesia’s Governor which for many people sparks a new light of hope in Jakarta City.

 

I am not interested to discuss about government or the best ways to manage a city. Instead, we will use him as an example of how a high velocity organization could arise not only in manufacturing, service industry, or military, but also in public administration system. Yes, yes,  I know that Jokowi has just been elected as a Governor of Jakarta around fourth quarter of year 2012. But we will later see, as I elaborate later, why I think that his management system will end successfully.

Watching people managing any systems is the same as watching a football match, you knew already who will win the match before the match over by watching both teams play. But you will still wait ‘till the end of the game to make sure that there is no coincidence that the other team unexpectedly win. Good managed team will win 90 % of the time while the rest of 10% is attributable to special variation.

In football game, those persons that often watch football match will know that a particular team will win against another before the game is ended. The way strategy is being executed in the football field will shows how the players play together, using each persons’ skills and combining strength to reach synergy that collectively create a good play. A good team come from a good manager. A good manager might not be the best player in the field. He could be the best player, but for sure he is at best at managing system. A good system will triumph most of the time, with some special minor exception of good system that failed to succeed. 

Companies in any industries has a role of managing its system. The unique things is that they all have different products as well as customers. Hospital, Manufacturing, Tourism, Public Administration. Thus, there are different ways to deal with managing system in each of these industries. However, managing a system is always have the same principal across industries, with some modifications to the industry we are trying to apply it in.  Here, I will present some facts across industries that mainly drawn out from my main industry of expertise which is automobile and try to show you how Jokowi acts matches with what has been a successful and proven philosophy in the world of automobile.

1. To change a system, you cannot be inside it.

Jokowi know this very well. He is not trying to change the system by being inside it, but he directly go “on top of it”. Unless we have one person that can changed the system on the top of organization’s pyramid, we cannot changed it by entering into it. We have to be above it. There is no use if you have an idea that could significantly changed the system when you are down below pyramid in a bad system. It is because in a bad system, your good idea considered as bad. because bad system nurtured bad ideas. Thus, only bad ideas goes into the top of the pyramid and got heard.

Jokowi is not trying to be hired as an employee, but he aimed for the top. He knew that if he want to changed the system, it has to be from the top. Many times good and diligent people got into a bad system and in no time these people tired of challenging bad inertia in the bad culture that has already ingrained and these good and diligent people become adapted to a bad system by producing bad ideas and doing unproductive activities.

Many cases that geniuses that have great academic records, or good carrier in foreign country, when they tried to come back to build their own country, they are shocked that they found their brilliant ideas are not working. People do not agree, not supporting it, or maybe no one believes it.

Mr. Habibie is so great at anything about airplane. He foretold “I want to make an airplane for my country”. He is more than a genius. But again,  in a bad system, he just not fit. He successfully created PT.Dirgantara, but it wasn’t successful because that time he has to interact with a bad system that exist in the country. Bad system is like a disease, it spreads to others around it so quick.

 

2. Create a system perspective for everyone

Everyone could work hard and do their best but still at the end the result is failed. As Dr.Deming said, it is no use to do your work as best as possible. We have to do the right things before we do our best. To make people able to evaluate themselves that they have already do the right things, people has to understand their position within a system and hence they know how to contribute to it.

In Toyota and in high velocity organization such as Pratt & Whitney’s, Southwest, Alcoa, and other leader in their own industries, knowledge of how a particular section or job fit into a whole system is very important to know for all the people inside the system. Toyota have always explained and educated a new employee about his role and responsibility. But in addition to that, Toyota makes sure that this new employee also know about how his role and responsibility will impact the whole system by explaining the whole system from manufacturing, quality , engineering ,design and so on.

Taking complex system, then divided it into parts, try to manage each part as best as possible is absolutely false. Because it tries to improve each part taken separately and destroyed the system. It is like taking a big mirror from store and you break the mirror into parts for optimization in carrying it to your house and when you reach your house, you reassemble the mirror again, and you are then shock that the mirror looks different, it do not work when you want to look at yourself and the parts seems not fit together as it was in the store. Because It simply have broken.

Jokowi tries to fit everyone to the whole picture by not only making everyone realizes their role and responsibility within a system of public administration, but also that he shows to all employees about the whole system. For example, he put out a YouTube channel that could be seen by all employees so that employees know what really governor do and what really happening in other sections of public administration so that they can really contribute by doing the right things at their best.

3. Going to “Gemba” and “Genchi Genbutsu”

Gemba is a Japanese term that means real place while Genchi Genbutsu means to look by yourself the particular physical things that being a concern. People in automobile always use this concept of management extensively. Managing from office is not enough because paper based management neglect real concerns. By the time the problem is translated into paper and travel to office as a report, many things has already been happened and information may also lost in the way or got distorted by the time it reached office. Additionally, information, if not getting distorted it will somehow go perish and by the time people from the office try to reconstruct the problem, all people connected to it has forgot about it or the environment has already simply changed. It is because Information has a characteristic of sensitive to distortion and perishable. 

Thus, going to Gemba will means getting problem found from the right persons in timely manner, isolate as quickly as possible before spreading, and solve as soon as it arise. Going to Gemba also means Genchi genbutsu or seeing the real thing as it is.

Jokowi really knows the values of going to Gemba and Genchi Genbutsu. He first of all realizes that civilian in Jakarta is his customers and the success of his organization is the satisfaction of customers. Therefore, getting the customers’ concern is a top priority. He knows very well that customers is where he could really get the real problem on time without distortion and therefore despite of all the accusation that he is wasting time, he still do go to Gemba.

 

In addition, Jokowi’s success in Solo city where he lead for several years as Governor before he became governor of Jakarta is not merely because of he is a superpower person or a very genius person. He might be one of them, but alone, only destructive change that could result ( firing, hiring, penalty, force procedures). Instead, he manages the system with constructive change that can only be achieved through collaboration and cooperation that obviously not a work of a single hero. Thus, those leader that could really turn the situation is good at managing collaboration and cooperation as a vehicle to constructive change. Instead of using power to generate policy that is destructive to system. These leaders can use it to create collaboration that will be fruitful as these leaders believe that change should come from collaboration that arise from a system management. This will make a lasting change even after the leader is not anymore responsible for the system because the system has already built, run, and improve itself.

Leader’s Job is to lead not merely giving orders.

Living in Lean Culture: Seeing is Believing

I have remembered how I have been amazed by a discovery in my own country Indonesia. I have gone so long to my reflective side of me after I have witnessed things that I couldn’t imagine to be exist in my country. Considering about the status of my country which categorized as a developing countries and the experience that I have on visiting several factories, I have been startled by a visitation to a factory in which the culture of Lean is very apparent.

In April 2011, I accompanied colleague students of my University to have a field trip to the automotive manufacturer plant which handle the assembly of medium and low trucks. I have had an experience for six months of internship in a quite famous automotive manufacturer overseas in Germany. Therefore, I presumed that the plant that we were going to visit was not possible to have a better management and/or technology than in Germany.

By the time we got there, I verify my assumption with the fact. It turns out at the first sight this plant which located in my country have nothing extra worth to be noted as better when compared to the technology with what the Germans have. It was a very conventional plant. At the site, we gathered together to a short briefing and quickly we were divided into several group and being arranged into route of travel around factory.

We make a start to the first process and go until the latest process in the plant. The tour guide which happens to be the supervisor and a foreman assisting us and generously share their experience about the working procedure, process, and experience. The workers in some areas are very kindly and proudly explaining the things that they are responsible of. I was astonished after we have come to an end. It was amazing to be there that  day and I felt very fortunate to be there.

I saw that  lean management in the factory that actually work. In that moment I totally changed my paradigm when I see with my own eyes that there is a factory runs smoothly by using no automation and high-tech and rely on the management of lean. They are many of lean concept use to manage the system. By concept I didn’t mean just methodology, but people actions and the the artifact of boards that daily updated, and the acknowledgement of suggestion of workers for all factory members. Besides of the Japanese auditor from Japan that always came to the factory to maintain the performance, many interesting facts have surprised me.

Previously I am very disappointed with labor from my country. It is because in my view, labor in my country is lazy and unproductive. However, what I saw that day at the factory could really make me realize the power of Lean. Lean could changed people behavior and culture to the desired one. I felt really happy to be there.

4 Quick and Cheapest Ways to Effectively Learn about Kaizen

For some of us, Kaizen is not uncommon word. Some even live their day to day life by either promoting Kaizen all over the world or  living in the culture of Kaizen in their working company. In spite of this, many of us still have doubts due to confusion when being asked about the meaning of Kaizen and how they applied Kaizen to their job or personal life. Although some people know that Kaizen is a word that come from Japanese with the meaning of Continuous Improvement, they still questioning themselves about their correct understanding of Kaizen.

I have tried to bring a basic understanding of what really is the meaning of Kaizen by presenting in my other post about the Father of Kaizen himself delivering his point of view regarding the fundamental meaning of Kaizen. Additionally, in this post, 4 Quickest Ways for us to effectively learn about Kaizen will be given to enhance our understanding of where to go or what to do when we want to go about deepening the practical knowledge about Kaizen in our life.

1. Movies or Videos

The internet can be our friend and enemy, it can lead us to unproductive works that lead to procrastination or make us more productive by supporting us toward achieving our goals. In the internet, a website that I found most helpful to introduce us to the concept of Kaizen, history and application of Kaizen is YouTube. It can provide a quick overview into the main topic of Kaizen without really have to go through the hassle of going into detail.

2. Amazon

Sometimes people regards reading as a cumbersome ways of learning because of the flow of writing in books which typically more often do not directly go to the main points, but rather go around the introduction and story telling which bore people. But I cannot deny that the positives are more than negatives when it is coming to learning Kaizen through reading books. Kaizen is a philosophy that can be understand only by doing it or by learning from someone who has already doing it. Thus, the best way to learn from those who already began their Kaizen journey is for you to grab a book or just click in Amazon and read the story about the challenge  people try to implementing it and the great benefits of living in it.

3. Online Seminar

Website such as Lean.org has been for decades trying to promote Lean which is also a form of Continuous Improvement to the world. Yes, for some of the Seminars we will need to take some money out of our pocket, but many good recording from online seminars as well as slideshow from the seminar are just there waiting for the interested people to take a shot and download them. This source is very good because Seminars are usually held for them who need to solve a problem in a particular areas of Kaizen. Therefore, the more people interested in attending the seminar in one topic, the more chances that the seminar will be held with that topic. And once the seminar is held, we can know what topic became the concern of Industry about Kaizen.

4. Apply it!!

To be successful people have to think big and start small. This is true and proven to works in all aspects of our life from learning to swim, riding bike, counting, until going to outer space. Understanding Kaizen could not be better learn by practicing it. It is hard to actually implement Kaizen in our office if there is no employees actually aware of it. But, one can always began from themselves. Personal Kaizen is a good start to learn about Kaizen. Simply begin your day with Deming Cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act so that you could improve and deepen the value of Kaizen in our life.