Of course, it was not easy for Japan to recover in a short time after the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. They say that the Kaizen thinking system is effective to their current state. Kaizen, a philosophy developed by the Japanese Masaaki Imai as a result of the poor fall of Japan after World War II and the poor economy, is a combination of the words change and good. In terms of meaning, it is defined as changing in small and frequent steps in order to achieve better. Let’s see what this continuous performance improvement philosophy and approach means, what does it provide, how it is used in daily life.
Kaizen approach gives importance to the continuous improvement process. Thanks to small improvements in the process, the result is a big improvement. In fact, we say “Drop by drop becomes a lake” in Turkish. We can say that Kaizen has the same meaning as the proverb. Kaizen works on the “one minute” principle. So every day we start doing the action we want to improve for just 1 minute. At the same time, we know that the behaviours we repeat for 21 days become habits. In this way, we get a habit by starting small steps and the behaviour or habit we have recently developed enters our lives easily and quickly.
The second stage of Kaizen is to increase this 1-minute period gradually. Someone who takes a short but dangerous road to reach the top of the mountain, and someone who takes the curvy, safe but long road that runs along the slopes of the mountain will arrive at the summit in the same time. Likewise, if you ensure continuity in Kaizen, you can even see that the process is shorter.
Let’s listen to Toyota’s story with Kaizen. Two of Toyota’s values are respect for people and continuous improvement. Kaizen’s foundation also extends to Toyota. In 1984, the possibility of the close of the factory increases due to the inefficiency and negative performance of General Motors in California. Most General Motors employees were laid off due to the low performance and low employee satisfaction in the factory. As a result, Toyota forms a partnership with General Motors to implement its system in a country other than Japan. The Japanese bring their own Toyota systems, and over time they start to see surprisingly positive results after they start implementation. Employees’ behavior has improved and performance has increased. In fact, everything has improved so much that a 300% increase is observed in the performance of the factory after 3 years. When General Motors executives asked the Japanese how they did this, they learn that Toyota reclaimed most of the workers who were fired and spoke with them that they trusted and respected their goodwill and competence. After this conversation, they told them that they knew a time and space to solve problems and that this helped them to maintain continuity in the healing process. In other words, in the business world, we can say that the Kaizen approach allows focusing on the process, not the result.
Thanks to the Kaizen philosophy, communities work towards a purpose and goal, units carry out their own work more efficiently and effectively, problems are resolved permanently. According to this philosophy, perfection is not achieved because there is always an open door for improvement. Since it is known that even the Kaizen philosophy will not achieve perfection, the “Kaikaku” approach is also considered by those who adopt this approach. Kaikaku means radical change. If we want to gain new strategies, approaches or technical knowledge, we must prioritize the Kaikaku approach.
The “amygdala”, which is a part of the medial temporal lobe of our brain, provides the formation of memory related to emotional events. In other words, there are emotions such as fear, joy and sadness in this. In fact, the reason we want to adapt to change right away and we are mostly against change is because of our fear, amygdala secretes the stress hormone. However, when we look at the big picture, we must manage our negative thoughts and care about the philosophy of continuous improvement in the Kaizen approach for our development. Because the concept of “innovation” that we are used to revives fear in the mind that is not ready for change because it occurs with long intervals and sudden leaps. Recently, the world is focusing on moving fast and getting results fast. With the Kaizen philosophy, small but continuous steps will prepare the mind for change and ensure the improvement of the current situation or problem. So now you must think about admitting there is a problem and “What can I improve for a minute a day?” he should be thinking. Because “the two days are equal at loss.