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Embracing Japanese Business Strategy

It's not a coincidence that continuous improvement (known as Kaizen) is an integral part of so many companies' philosophies. Still, it's not always obvious how to implement it, especially when things seem to be going well.

It's well known that Google asks its employees to use 20 percent of their working hours to focus on a big picture project — unrelated to their day-to-day jobs — that they think will benefit the company. It was during this project time that developer Paul Buchheit dreamed up the idea for Gmail. Practicing kaizen means never accepting the status quo. But in order to identify areas for growth, you have to be willing to acknowledge your pain points.

Most entrepreneurs tend to have persistence baked into their mindsets — after all, getting a business off the ground demands it. But it shouldn't end there. Continuous improvement means keeping that momentum after your business has launched, regardless of how well things are going. This will give you a competitive edge in the good times and the ability to change course when obstacles arise. No matter where you're at, there is always room for growth.

Too often executives thins that to build a culture of continuous improvement they just have to hire a Lean Manager, Operational Excellence Manager, Change Manager and then it will be solved. To build effective continuous improvement culture with inside and organization one need to understand that is not just about executing a handful projects with a methodology of process improvement. Is required to drive sustainable result over time and embed kaizen into every heart of the organization.

Beginning a Lean project can be daunting, and knowing where to start can be difficult. Leaders should be well aware of the reasons why Lean projects either succeed or fail, and should realize the potential pitfalls before encountering them. Comparative studies among successful and unsuccessful Lean implementation found the most important project characteristics predicting outcome are managerial commitment, formal mechanisms to enable and encourage autonomy, highlighting transparent mid- to long-term goals, providing sustainability, highlighting quick wins and ongoing auditing. The most critical key to success is managerial/C-suite involvement, engagement and encouragement.

Many Lean experts also advise focusing on waste of inventory as an initial step because inefficient materials flow makes efficient process flow difficult, unnecessarily binding excess capital. For example, in the health care sector. Not only is effective materials management financially smart, but it also helps increase patient safety. When nurses are pulled away from patient care to be involved in materials management, patient safety is likely to suffer. In fact, up to 20 percent of nurses’ time has been found to be involved in logistics such as traveling, delivering, retrieving and waiting — and much of that involves materials.


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