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.

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:

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.

Marketing in Disguise: Transcorp 11th year celebration

Transcorp is an Indonesian Television corporation that runs its business by owning and managing several biggest television stations such as Trans TV, Trans7 and also online news called DETIKCOM. Transcorp recently had a birthday celebration which is pretty awesome. Every viewers could experienced the huge stage, famous artists and magnificent lightning effects and on top of all that, it was a well crafted program that could entertains both live viewers on the site and also at home. I was not currently in my home country but I was able to watched it through a website called Mivo.tv.

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Point that worth shared is that beyond the well presented concept, grand event, fabulous design and the overachievement result, I saw the event as an eye opening inspiration for many of Small and Medium business especially in a profit base organization. In this segment of Business, they tend to celebrate the success year by year with their own staffs, have a big cake, decorating rooms in office or probably have a adventurous outing in to celebrate it. The mainstream of owners in a small business will and in general have a good logic of giving back to their employees and of course to the owner himself a reward of this achievement by spending a certain amount of budget for company birthday celebration.

On the other end of the world, when we go to a typical birthday celebration as a person, we usually invite all the persons that is close to celebrate together. It could be our family, close friends, girlfriend/boyfriend, relatives or any persons that we deemed important in our lives.

What is wrong with this? I assume nothing is wrong, except sometimes when we run our Small Business, we become carried with the ordinary and natural action that we take as a person and forget that we are actually running a business.

Unconventional approach to a “Birthday” for a company is the exact example of Transcorp. This company definitely is not the only company that take this approach, and many other big companies take similar approach to celebrate their birthday. The mind blowing fact is that the event just did the reverse of what is considered regular approach of celebrating a birthday. Instead of only taking all employee to vacation or give treat to them, Transcorp additionally also launched an event.

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I immediately think of why they did all of that? Why they spent so much for a big event when all they should do is celebrated their success for that particular year that they have achieved so hard? By launching this event, they actually throw out their possibility of a bigger celebration because the budget for event can actually be use for their own internal celebration or outing.

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Then I realized instantly that when I saw the event, I feel like become more “attached” to this company as a viewer of this event because of the event that they held is so magnificent and beautiful. Now the reason is obvious, it is because the customers that make their business run. Big business put greater attention to maintaining their customers and this is exactly why they become big in the first place. There is actually no advantages of making a huge event called a celebration of a particular company for public. But the unmeasureable value of future profit is very certain. People perceive better image of the company and the effect is growing loyalty. This event is a “marketing in disguise” which is a very genius approach that could also be use for Small and Medium Business.

Some big companies or small companies usually do not recognize this seemingly covered opportunity by building more image into customers and expanding awareness with the motives of celebrating birthday. For Small and Medium Companies that have more limitation in their budget, a small event is more than enough than nothing at all.

if we can’t measure it, than we can’t manage it. But the most important things in business are those things that cannot actually be measured. –W. Edward Deming

It means one should not stuck only to numbers and quick profit, but also subjective matters that can guarantee our business in the future.

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.

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.