research@hec - Issue #26 - (Page 4)
We can see clearly now!
Laoucine Kerbache and his co-authors set out to assess the use of the Japanese concept of Kaizen, considered a key element in the competitiveness of Japanese companies. Their research led them to propose a classification that may help academics and managers to use different Kaizen perspectives and tools more wisely.
Laoucine Kerbache joined HEC Paris in 2000. Previously, he taught and held various positions at ESC-Rennes and other institutions abroad. He holds a PhD, an MSc, and a BSc in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts (USA).
Kaizen, did you say Kaizen? This term, created by the combination of two Japanese words (Kai and Zen, which respectively mean “change” and “good” in Japanese), is well-known in the management world but its meaning is not always clear. “Masaaki Imai defined it as a means of continuous improvement in work life, as well as in personal and social life,” says Laoucine Kerbache, who decided to find out what Kaizen is really about while he was a visiting professor at ESADE in Barcelona. Regarded as the key to competitiveness of Japanese companies since the 1980s, this gradual and smooth process is based on small, concrete improvements, which are simple, inexpensive, and made continuously on a daily basis.
KAIZEN FOR EVERYONE
Today, in business, Kaizen comes in a multiple methodologies and techniques such as GembaKaizen workshops, Lean-Kaizen in Six Sigma, Office Kaizen, Kaizen Teian, Kaizen Flash, and Kaizen Blitz. Popularized in the West, Kaizen Blitz, for example, aims for radical change in a short amount of time. “With the adoption of Just-in-Time, Lean Production, and Six Sigma, American and European companies copied the concept of Kaizen but with many ambiguities and inconsistencies,” says Kerbache. “The literature review that we carried out reveals the importance of clarifying this concept, especially for operations management of products and services.”
THREE PERSPECTIVES AND A FEW GUIDING PRINCIPLES Kerbache and his co-authors identified three different perspectives or visions, which each include a set of principles and techniques. “The first considers Kaizen as a management philosophy and advocates for continuous improvement to enhance organizational performance and progress,” he says. “In the second, Kaizen is a component of Total Quality Management, which focuses on responding to customer needs and business objectives. In the third perspective, Kaizen is considered a series of methodologies and techniques to reduce waste, which is the vision developed by Lean Management.” By comparing these three perspectives, Kerbache and his co-authors highlight the nuances in Kaizen as well as the overlap and duplication that can exist within and become exacerbated by environment and culture. “When it comes to implementation, some things do not fit neatly into the different perspectives; we do not know if they fall under a management philosophy, total quality, or a methodology like Lean. So, the risk is great to mix approaches and to implement an inappropriate action plan, using ineffective tools. This is the case of most big failures we have seen, especially when Kaizen is used to support a sudden change.” WHEN KAIZEN GOES WRONG When it is well understood and well managed, Kaizen can give outstanding results. This has been
• April-May 2012
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of research@hec - Issue #26
Cover & Contents
Two-tier competition Putting an end to oligarchies
Kaizen We can see clearly now!
Real estate finance How demographics drive housing prices
research@hec - Issue #26