Kaizen is an extremely powerful change management tool | Thought Leadership


If you want your company to stay relevant in 2050 and beyond, use kaizen: it is the most powerful change management tool in your arsenal whi...

If you want your company to stay relevant in 2050 and beyond, use kaizen: it is the most powerful change management tool in your arsenal which avoids all the problems associated with process reengineering. Kaizen might be slow, but it is sustainable and more permenent given the gradual nature of changes.

By Karn G. Bulsuk

Kaizen is a mindset which involves challenging the status quo. That’s the whole point of it. The basic assumption of kaizen is that things are still not perfect, and can forever be improved and be made better. As a result, it encourages people to rise up to the challenges in the business environment and to adapt and seek new business opportunities.

An organization which has adopted the kaizen mindset and associated tools such as PDCA and 5-whys will also be nimble as they are used to the idea that they need to continually be on their feet and change in order to respond to market conditions. Every day we see organzations crash and burn because they are too slow to respond to change.

If we look at Toyota for example, we’ve seen them constantly respond to changing market conditions, from the development of small, fuel efficient city cars, to the virtual creation of the hybrid car: both of which were started way before oil prices starting their rise to alarming levels. It was the ability for employees to speak up via kaizen which allowed employees to help identify the challenges which would face the company in the next 5 to 10 years, and alert management of that.

Toyota Prius: a hybrid car born
from kaizen.
The main difference between process reengineering and kaizen is that the former is immediate and happens within a fixed time frame. Human by nature resist change, and process regineering has a high risk of failure since the scope and number of changes being pushed through will make many people uncomfortable, if not downright angry.

Kaizen on the other hand is slower, and occurs continuously over the lifetime of the organization. Kaizen makes the improvement process easier and more palatable by making such changes small and incremental until it becomes natural, or better yet, people don't really notice there's been any change.

The PDCA model actively encourages this not by asking people to think about large-scale projects to perform, but by asking them to consider how their processes could be slowly improved. The Toyota Production System believes that as incremental changes accumulates, it leads to much larger changes and a better end product or service in the long run.

Kaizen deals with the very nature of life: change is constant, and will allow organizations to respond much more quickly to the ever changing business realities.

Photos by Tony and Marcin Wichary



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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Kaizen is an extremely powerful change management tool | Thought Leadership
Kaizen is an extremely powerful change management tool | Thought Leadership
Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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