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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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).

Lean Thinking : The Problem of Introducing “Doing Better” for Different People with Different Background

 

Having read the A lean journey blog that gave a quote of the week about “Can We do Better?” “YES”, I get so inspired yet give rise to unresolved questions  that coming up to my mind after I read the article.

Maybe, it is better that the unanswered question be described using a small true story that I experienced.

I have a maid, whose job is to come everyday to my house leaving her husband and two kids to clean my house. She will clean every room in my house from living room, bed room, kitchen, until toilet. I have just getting mad at her because she supposed to also clean my bedroom but it appeared that she just passed my bedroom and not doing the mopping, sweeping, and tidying that she is responsible for.

I thought maybe she just have a rough day to get over so I just neglect it. But the next day, the same thing happened again and I confront and ask her for a confirmation. unexpectedly, she is the one who is getting irritated with me because she felt that I accused her for not doing her job while she actually did clean my room. While calming myself from her reaction, I followed up with a probing questions and found out that she in fact thought that the cleaning job that she had done was fabulous according to her.

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That night, I went into reflection and thinking deeply about how that could happened. I learn and passionately searching about Lean that basically doing things better or Kaizen about continuous improvement, but in my own backyard, in my house, I got a person working in my house who is my maid that basically have a different standards compare to me about the definition of  “a clean room”. For her, since she lives in a village, she define “a clean room”.is that room that I call dirty because I live in a city. Thus, we have a different standards about “a clean room”.

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The rising questions is how she could do better at cleaning my room while according her standards she has already done a wonderful job. How to make her realize that what she did actually is below my standards and that she could do better willingly and improve her performance and quality.

This is somehow related with quality perceived by customers. In my country, quality is not the main concern because people is still buying products even not a high quality. They bought it because their standards is rather low, so that when the products that being produced in my country want to be exported, then the gap about standards become a barrier for my country’s products to sell. On the other side, people on my country has no pressure or willingness to do better in production because they still think that it sells well. The labor is not trying to improve the process because without improving it, it still sells even just for local market. Their standards become inertia for their self to reach the next level of doing better and to continuously improvement.

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The question is “How?”. How to make them realize that the standards that they are living in is not fitted anymore and needed to be improve and in fact could be improve if they realize that they need a new standard.

Kaizen : Through the Lens of Sociological Perspective

Kaizen is all about making a continuous improvement. At a glance, it seems the definition could really easy to catch and understandable. Lean and Quality is apart of Kaizen and both can be sustain if the culture of Kaizen is inside the organization. In plain words, whether it is for a person, a group of people, an organization, or a global company, achieving high quality with low cost, increasing delivery capability ( response and speed ),  and gaining the right level of flexibility ( in terms of variety and volume ) together with an increase of productivity, Kaizen is the answer. It is the root that could make Lean and Quality living in the system.

In this post, I would like to point out that understanding Kaizen philosophy will help us to get started with Lean and/or Quality. However, as experts have warned us against all the too much simplification of Lean and/or Quality, the danger of viewing Lean and/or Quality by neglecting people’s interest and dynamic can lead to catastrophic result. We, both beginners or experts tend sometimes to focus on technical stuff. In Lean Management, this disease is called concentrating only to the methods and not the philosophy. In Quality, this is called the disease of dealing with quality as a product/engineered product quality only and not dealing with the whole quality as perceive by the customer.

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This tells us that in Lean as well as in Quality, the involvement of Human side adds value to the success of it’s movement. Practitioners in Lean have clearly stressed out that culture of providing customers with value by means of eliminating waste has to be begin by a cultural change. On the other side in Quality movement, it is also have been said that Quality engineering is not a complete Quality, and the Culture of Quality First for customers come with the involvement of workers. Both have point out the importance of workers and not just methods or tools or engineering calculation. Thus, it is safe to say that Kaizen needs to take care both Social and Technical perspective for it to success. Both methods and human is technical and social that forms  a sociotechnical systems which refers to the interrelatedness of social and technical aspects of an organization. Thus, in my opinion it is important to think in terms of sociotechnical systems when we want to move forward with Lean and/or Quality.

Kaizen Story : A Commuter Life in Foreign Country

Being a student in a foreign country leaves me with little choice when it comes to transportation. I studied not too far from Bremen, Germany and have an experience of travelling by carrying bicycle with bus or train. I always feel like bicycle in a train or a bus could draw attention  of passengers especially on the busy hours. The regular bicycle that we carry into train or bus will attract the attention of others due to the space that it will consume that can actually be the space for them.

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In addition, trying to comply with the rules regulated by the local government, a bicycle on the buss or train is subject to a certain price to travel along with us. I think this is because of the reason for space that I mentioned. However, as a student in a foreign country, bicycle is my primary mode of travel. I use bicycle to go to campus, shopping, travel to other cities on the weekend, go to friends house, etc. Basically, for most of them, there will be a combination of riding a bicycle and carrying a bicycle on the train or bus

 

Thinking about saving time and money, I determined to do continuous improvement on myself by investing in a folding bicycle which will leave me free of charge of expenses on train or bus when carrying folding bicycle. I can also stripping away the complexities of urban life faster than before. It offers a healthy and cost effective method of commuting plus the advantage of multi-mode travel versus conventional bikes.

 

 

I think it is not exaggerating that folding bicycles is the most appropriate solution for nowadays busy urban life. I bought Dahon Mu P8 after considering and weighting the effect of changing bicycle from conventional into folding bike. Additionally, Dahon Mu P8 is a really good folding bicycle which comfortable, light and stylish to ride.

Advantages of Folding Bikes
  • Foldable bikes offer flexibility and ease of commuting via train/bus and bike as they can be carried free on public transport.
  • They are virtually thief-proof, a huge advantage in major cities  where bike theft is commonplace.
  • Folders, as they are lovingly called by their owners, fit effortlessly into cramped spaces so are ideal for apartment owners.
  • Used as a commuter bike, they offer a healthy, green method of transport and potential cost savings versus a car when used with public transport for longer journeys.
  • Folding bikes are great as training bikes for cyclists travelling abroad and are super easy to pack as they simply fold into a travel bag.
  • They have a high resale value so are a good investment.
  • Buying a folding bike is pretty straightforward as they generally only come in one size with other parts such as the seat post offering different “sizes” for individual riders.

Read more at Suite101: Why Ride a Folding Bike?: Pros and Cons of Buying a Foldable Bicycle | Suite101.com http://suite101.com/article/why-ride-a-folding-bike-a100289#ixzz24uhr90qR

Folding Bikes that I have…

5 Steps to Personal Kaizen

Kaizen consists of the word Kai which means “change/make better” and Zen which means “good”. But when we put together the words into Kaizen, it expresses a deep meaning of continuous improvement or improving continuously that when applied to our daily life would have developed an increase of our productivity as well as quality of our daily result.

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The secret of boosting our quality and productivity lies in the way Deming’s Circle or Continuous Improvement Circle is implemented in our daily life. Great companies have gained favor from using this philosophy and in this post, you will gain advantage by applying the concept of  Continuous Improvement Circle in your daily life.

Continuous Improvement Circle

Continuous Improvement Circle consists of the Circle of PDCA ( Plan – Do – Check – Act ). Here, the 5 key steps to your personal kaizen are uncovered:

1. Plan Your Activities

To begin with doing a Personal Kaizen in our daily life, planning activities is a very important step. In many Time Management concept, planning your activities has been the most crucial concept. One should try to plan yearly, monthly, weekly and daily. Yearly and monthly planning will comprise the most important events of the year and/or month, whereas weekly and daily planning will deal most of the time with operational issues and projects that we undergo at works or at home.

Thus, it is important to set at least 15 minutes everyday before you sleep to get to know your next day activities so that you can make sure that the following day will be filled with the activities that are actually meaningful not only for your boss or family but also to you.

2. Set Apart Things That You Do Regularly

Getting all the activities is just your first step to enter your personal kaizen circle. having acknowledged your activities, now you can separate those activities that happen most of the time either daily, weekly, monthly or yearly and those activities that are sporadically or spontaneously appear in your calendar.

Kaizen is continuous improvement. Thus the activities that appear regularly will subject to your Personal Kaizen. Setting apart these activities from others will make you focus on doing it effectively with more quality.

3. Create A Way to Make It Better and Standardize

The focus of Personal Kaizen is on small continuous improvement of life processes. Thus, after we know the activities that we do regularly, it is now time for us to seek for a way to do it more efficiently with the help of either doing it differently by using another methods or using technologies to enhance the time to finish the activities.

It is also important to set target for yourself to try to reach 3 activities accomplishment that is not regularly done and try to get it done everyday. This is for the purpose of evaluating your kaizen effort that will be explain in step 5 later.

4. Standardize

The Continuous Improvement Circle cannot be separated from Standardization in which it means that the improvement that we have done will be our current standard and will become a challenge for us to improve to a new and better state. In the future, our challenge is to beat the current standard that we set so that we progressively making improvement to the same activities that we do. Without standard, it is very easy to feel satisfy and perform below standard.

5. Evaluate yourself and back again to point 1 

Evaluating is an ultimate importance and since it is a circle of improvement, I will not call step 5 as the last step, but a precursor to step 1. Your effort now might have been paid off. You can prove if you have done the right and on the right track doing your Personal Kaizen by meeting one or more of these:

  • There are more activities that you can tackle in one day compare to before you apply personal kaizen
  • You become last stressful due to available slot time you have in your day for family, leisure, or your kids
  • You basically feel that you own your life and not your boss or your tasks

How we could increase the number of accomplishment of irregular and regular tasks everyday directly related with how good we are at kaizen. The better kaizen that we do to our regular tasks, the more we can tackle unpredictable tasks with the better quality result and with more freedom of time to do personal purpose activity such as leisure or go out with kids.

One final concern is that even you have already achieved and know the benefits of personal kaizen, I encourage you to do a circle of continuous improvement and not to stop only until step 5 or else the improvement that you have already done will be deteriorate.