Continuous Improvement

I was thinking of the story about W. Edwards Deming and  the story about how he had this philosophy of continuous improvement but people in the American  auto industry were not interested so he ended up teaching it in Japan to Toyota. The  rest is history.  Here is a definition from Wikipedia:

“The term kaizen ( Japanese for “improvement”) is a Japanese word adopted into English referring to a philosophy or practices focusing on continuous improvement in manufacturing activities, business activities in general, and even life in general, depending on interpretation and usage. When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, kaizen typically refers to activities that continually improve all functions of a business, from manufacturing to management and from the CEO to the assembly line workers.[1] By improving standardized activities and processes, kaizen aims to eliminate waste (see lean manufacturing). Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses during the country’s recovery after World War II and has since spread to businesses throughout the world.[2]”

In another expert on Wikipedia it talks about his system of profound knowledge see below:

“The Deming System of Profound Knowledge

The prevailing style of management must undergo transformation. A system cannot understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside. The aim of this chapter is to provide an outside view—a lens—that I call a system of profound knowledge. It provides a map of theory by which to understand the organizations that we work in.

“The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge. The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people.

“Once the individual understands the system of profound knowledge, he will apply its principles in every kind of relationship with other people. He will have a basis for judgment of his own decisions and for transformation of the organizations that he belongs to. The individual, once transformed, will:

  • Set an example;
  • Be a good listener, but will not compromise;
  • Continually teach other people; and
  • Help people to pull away from their current practices and beliefs and move into the new philosophy without a feeling of guilt about the past.”

Deming advocated that all managers need to have what he called a System of Profound Knowledge, consisting of four parts:

  1. Appreciation of a system: understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers (or recipients) of goods and services (explained below);
  2. Knowledge of variation: the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements;
  3. Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known (see also: epistemology);
  4. Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature.”

It is fascinating that these ideas have been around for half a century and yet the majority of companies exercise very little if any of this wisdom and  of course many have developed highly effective ideas on how to grow profitable,  sustainable businesses where there is high employee engagement and satisfaction so why  do so few companies employ these ideas.

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