HomeNewsArticle Display

AFSO21 Reading list

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- KAIZEN by Masaaki Imai:

Overview: A comprehensive handbook of 16 Kaizen management practices that can be put to work. KAIZEN uses more than 100 examples in action and contains 15 corporate case studies.

Personal evaluation: The book is becoming a bit dated having been written two decades ago and is hard reading. However, the concepts are enduring and are appropriate for the advanced reader and lean practitioner.

Highlights:
Kaizen means gradual, unending improvement, doing "little things" better; setting and achieving ever higher standards.

Kaizen steps in a nutshell:
1. Make sure you have created a checklist that documents the standardized work or process
2. Identify the waste in the process
3. Figure out how to remove the waste
4. If it works, update the checklist or standardized work.

Page 15:
"Japanese management makes a concerted effort to involve employees in KAIZEN through suggestions. Thus, the suggestion system is an integral part of the established management system, and the number of workers' suggestions is regarded as an important criterion in reviewing the performance of these workers' supervisors. The manager of the supervisors is in turn expected to assist them so that they can help workers generate more suggestions."
The suggestion program must be interlinked with the improvement program strategy, and must have management involvement and velocity in acting and/or replying to the suggestions. An important aspect is that each suggestion leads to change, i.e. a new standard or OI.

Example: Toyota: 1.5 million suggestions/year (circa 1980s) 95% of them are put to practical use.
Example: Matsushita: 6 million suggestions in 1985. The most suggestions made at one company in one year by an individual: 16821

Page 18: In Western culture we focus on results metrics only and the author cites this as the reason for our failure in utilizing Quality Circles, i.e. a focus on only the results that QC were producing, at the expense of looking at the processes for improvement. "In other words, if management is interested in supporting the QC circle's efforts for improvement, the first thing management has to do is to establish process metrics (number of meetings, process observed, participation rate, number of problems solved (note, this is not necessarily the same as results, i.e. dollars or manpower saved)

Page 25: The West is focused on large innovations instead of gradual improvements. KAIZEN is all about gradual and continuous improvement. The example shown is that it is easier to achieve ten 10% gains than one 100% gain, especially in terms of the amount of investment dollars required. Innovation is like a staircase, and Kaizen is like a ramp.

Page 112: Interesting factoid: The suggestion system and integration into continuous process improvement in Japan was inspired by the US Air Force in the 1950s. HOWEVER, the American style suggestion system stressing the suggestion's economic benefits, providing financial incentives and requiring intense study and justification by the person making the suggestion, soon gave way to the Japanese style stressing the morale-boosting benefits of positive employee participation.

Page 163:
Problem: most of the problems we create do not inconvenience ourselves, they inconvenience our customers--that is why good feedback loops are essential.

Normal management style: When confronted with a problem, hide it, ignore it or blame someone else.
Kaizen management style: every problem is an opportunity for improvement