The Zen of Kaizen


    The Zen of Kaizen is something every organization needs to ponder about a bit, whether you are involved in outsourcing business processes, or executing them in-house.

    Kaizen is Continuous Process Improvement in its simplest form. However, Kaizen is useless unless the Zen of Kaizen is understood properly!

    Continuous Process Improvement is absolutely crucial for organizations in the coming years as never before!

    If you are a legacy Automobile Insurance Company you should be looking over your shoulder for more nimble competitors that make the customers do all the work through Web based "Quote-Apply-Print" cycles of getting an automobile insurance policy. Legacy companies cannot take days or weeks to cover someone under an auto policy.

    Just as larger companies like HP and IBM found out painfully, you cannot compete with nimbler online competitors like Dell that cut days and weeks out of the personal computer ordering cycle when you use web-based interfaces.

    24/7 Customer, an offshore BPO service provider promises on their homepage ( that they will improve your business process when you offshore to them, by 10% or more, whatever Key Performance Indicator you want improved!

    So Continuous Process Improvement cannot be a nice "slogan of the year" approach any more whether you are outsourcing your business process or doing it in-house! An offshored mortgage loan process needs to be done in 14 days if most of your competitors have a 14-day cycle time for the mortgage loan process! You may save money by offshoring it but if the offshored process takes more time than what your competitors offer, your business may go up in smoke!

    The Zen of Kaizen is key to its implementation. The Zen of Kaizen is absolute buy-in from top management and at the same time, total implementation from the bottom!

    Many quality approaches fail miserably because even a slight hint from top management that they are less than fully committed, employees will not be serious about these.

    Edward Deming, the american quality guru that helped many, many Japanese companies become global powerhouses with quality, refused to work with many of the largest american companies since their top management delegated quality to lesser managers. He would work with no one except the very top in each organization. For good reason. He did not waste his time or the company’s.

    The other part of the Zen of Kaizen is that the ideas need to come from the bottom; the people who actually do the work and their immediate managers. Many global companies have tried Industrial Engineers to dictate how work needs to be done in manufacturing situations. For the most part, they have not worked as well as environments where workers themselves are responsible for improvements.

    This makes sense even for outsourcing or offhsoring situations, since when it is outsourced, the service provider is the one that needs to come up with improvements!

    Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
    — Benjamin Franklin


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