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With the right approach, people begin to create, talents are revealed in the most unexpected way — this is the power of the Kaizen approach

With the right approach, people begin to create, talents are revealed in the most unexpected way — this is the power of the Kaizen approach


23.09.2020 (№ LDaily #15)

With the right approach, people begin to create, talents are revealed in the most unexpected way — this is the power of the Kaizen approach

Ivan Sarwar, Managing Director of Kaizen Institute Ukraine, a practitioner of cross-cultural communication, based on many years of experience and more than 100 successfully implemented projects in various industries. He is convinced that thanks to Kaizen — a Japanese practice that focuses on the perfection of production, development and management processes – Ukrainian enterprises can not only get out of the current crisis without losses, but also gain significant competitive advantages from authentic source of Kaizen methodology. And no matter how difficult the situation may look, it is important to have the courage to start changes, and the will to follow this Kaizen Way. The KAIZEN system of continuous improvement should become a way of life and work.

LDaily: Could you kindly tell us about the Kaizen Institute? Where are you represented? What is Kaizen’s philosophy?

I. Sarwar: Kaizen Institute is the primary source and original service provider of KAIZEN™. We support companies of all sizes of all market segments, providing them with a stable competitive advantage. We have been offering the global KAIZEN methodology to the world since 1985. Our methods affect everyone in the organization — they are serving the same purpose and transmitting a common understanding of KAIZEN™.

We can apply the experience of helping the world’s leading companies in any industry and country. Kaizen Institute has offices in more than 45 countries and provides services on six continents in more than 70 countries, including Austria, Algeria, Brazil, Great Britain, Hungary, Vietnam, India, Spain, Italy, Canada, Qatar, Kenya, China, Malaysia, Mexico, Germany, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Netherlands, Russia, Romania, Saudi Arabia, United States, Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine, Finland, France, Switzerland, Japan and others.

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy or practice focused on the continuous improvement of production, development, auxiliary business and management processes, as well as all aspects of life. Kaizen means a continuous growth for businesses — from production to senior management, from directors to ordinary employees. Kaizen’s goal is production without losses that is achieved by enhancing standardized processes. In the Japanese language, the word “Kaizen” means “continuous improvement”.

LDaily: Kaizen Institute has been operating in Ukraine for three years. Have you changed your model of cooperation with companies according to the peculiarities of the Ukrainian market?

I. Sarwar: Kaizen Institute Ukraine was founded in March 2017. However, its history started in 1998 when the Japan Center in Ukraine began its activities on the territory of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. The Center set the goal of contributing to the further improvement of the Ukrainian economy by developing human resources during the formation of the country’s market economy, as well as by adavncing collaboration between Japan and Ukraine in the field of foreign trade and business. Since May 22, 2006, the Ukrainian-Japan Center (UAJC) continued its work in the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute as a project of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). In the summer of 2010, before the project finished in 2011, it was decided to establish the Kaizen Club in Ukraine at a meeting of the UAJC leadership with the KPI, the JTI Ukraine, and representatives of Ukrainian business. The goal was to continue the JICA’s business program activities, as it was clear that interest in the Japanese style of management was constantly growing. On December 13, 2010, we officially opened the Kaizen Club in Ukraine with the support of the JICA, the Embassy of Japan in Ukraine, and the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine. Masaaki Imai, the founder of Kaizen Institute, conducted a master class during the opening of the Club. After the Ukraine Japan Center (the business program) stopped its operation in 2011, the Kaizen Club in Ukraine was switched to the format of a public organization. It harmoniously combines the original Japanese management traditions with the realities of the Ukrainian economy. At the opening event, Masaaki Imai noted that our country has significant potential for establishing a Kaizen Institute. Six years later, his words became a reality. In March 2017, a representative office of the global consulting company — Kaizen Institute Ukraine appeared in Ukraine. The official opening ceremony took place on October 5, 2017, at the Kyiv Golf Center.

Sure, we consider the changes on the market and always try to offer our customers an adaptive model of cooperation. The world doesn’t stand still. We grow together with it, develop new services and transformation models, as well as improve previously provided services. Although Kaizen implementation services were limited to the use of certain Kaizen tools in the company before, now we are ready to provide comprehensive services on Kaizen/Lean Transformation, Kaizen/Lean in Operations, Exponential Growth, Kaizen Strategy, and others.

LDaily: What is the essence of Kaizen/Lean Transformation? What does it include?

I. Sarwar: The essence of Kaizen-Transformation is in the company’s transition to Kaizen. This Way begins in the hearts of employees and never ends — perfection has no limits. This continuous perfection is the basis and the very essence of Kaizen. Masaaki Imai defines it as follows: “Everything, always, everywhere.” This means that everyone in the company, from its director to a cleaner, should take regular small steps towards improvement. Most importantly, people should always keep that in mind, being focused on Kaizen and the change for the better. As Eastern philosophy teaches, one should start making progress with themselves. This means we need to be ready to transform familiar and already established paradigms. So, possessing the Kaizen philosophy, its methodology and many years of experience, we help people cope with this. It is the main task of the Kaizen Transformation process.

LDaily: What requests do you receive from businesses? How do you satisfy their requirements?

I. Sarwar: The main needs of the Ukrainian business are the increase in operational efficiency and the reduction of shortages and production costs.

Our work with clients is based on the creation of the Kaizen system, the construction of processes that help clients identify problems and train KAIZEN teams to solve them. While establishing a sustainable KAIZEN™ culture within the organization, we make great use of the “go-to-Gemba*” approach. We introduce a model of change based on people. This contributes to the creation of a solid competitive advantage and business acumen. Kaizen Institute consultants develop a unique program according to the requirements and existing issues and priorities of the company, as well as accompany the team during the project and after its completion. Theory and practice ratio = 20/80, as we work in Gemba. (*“Gemba” is a Japanese word that means a “real place” and is commonly used in the KAIZEN™ context. Gemba is a place where value is added, for example, a workshop. In a broader sense, Gemba refers to any place in a company where the work is performed. So, you may have an Engineering Gemba, a Sales Gemba, an Accounting Gemba, etc.)

LDaily: At what stage of the company’s development is it suitable to start implementing Kaizen?

I. Sarwar: The implementation of the Kaizen system is possible at any stage. It is perfect when a company is just launching. We can help build processes according to the Kaizen methodology, implement Kaizen into the company’s strategy. We offer comprehensive solutions for realizing the Kaizen methodology (Kaizen/Lean Transformation, Kaizen/Lean in Operations, and exponential growth) from the global Kaizen Institute™. The main requirement for the future success is the involvement and support of top management. Accordingly, the implementation of Kaizen should start only after the owner or the director of the company is aware of the need for changes.

LDaily: How painful is the Kaizen implementation for a company? What should the owner, manager and employees be ready for? Should employees be prepared for mass layoffs?

I. Sarwar: If the process is guided by the Kaizen Institute, it is not only painless but fully effective. This is possible thanks to the methodology that has been honed for decades, the fundamental principles focused on people, and the Kaizen philosophy that has consistency and discipline in its core. Kaizen is always a competitive advantage for companies. Many Ukrainian firms benefited from this approach — they survived and kept their positions on the market. There are even industry giants among such companies…

Managers, employees and owners must be ready to change and, armed with a “Kaizen first aid kit”, to fully immerse themselves in the current processes. As one of Masaaki Imai’s postulates says: “Do not look for excuses, start with the current situation!”

Layoffs are not about us. On the contrary, companies will need people who can fill the management structure with improvements. This structure is formed by the staff. Another guru of management, Edwards Deming, said that quality does not depend on the number of people who work in the technical control department, and we agree with that. These controllers are already Kaizen experts. They know all the processes and operations, and most importantly, they are aware of possible issues that ultimately affect the final quality. This is the main Kaizen resource! We always state that Kaizen doesn’t need money, still, someone has to handle this task — we are not magicians and we do not do miracles. Working teams and Kaizen experts of the enterprise prepared by us do those miracles! This process is always creative. With the right approach, people become creative, and talents open up most unexpectedly. This is the strength of the Kaizen approach. Kaicho Masaaki Imai is right: “Invest creativity in Kaizen, not money.”

LDaily: How does the Kaizen Institute assess the impact of the coronavirus on the Ukrainian market? What scenarios of economic development are you anticipating, based on the current situation?

I. Sarwar: Each country has its own evolution and time limits of the epidemic. However, we can assess the typical scenario of the pandemic, crisis, and economic recovery phases. Observing the evolution of the pandemic, we concluded that the crisis will go through a series of phases (Phase I: Denial; Phase II: Destruction; Phase III: Resolution; Phase IV: Recovery; Phase V: Rethinking). The crisis has many adverse effects but it also opens up plenty of opportunities. COVID-19 should be considered a catalyst for positive change. It is crucial to constantly improve crisis management with the help of the “crisis headquarter”. We believe that 2021 will be highlighted by the growth of people’s health, the health sector, and the economy in general.

LDaily: The current crisis is forcing people to think about lean manufacturing. What solution can Kaizen Institute offer to its clients?

I. Sarwar: There will be a “new norm” and a need to revise companies’ strategies to respond to the “driving forces of change” arising from the crisis. Businesses that cope with these changes are likely to emerge from this crisis even stronger and to grow in terms of profit sooner than insufficiently trained teams. Preventive improvement strategies and their implementation will affect business recovery and companies’ future results. To strengthen the company after the crisis, its competitiveness must develop throughout the pandemic.

Take advantage of the opportunities posed by the crisis by implementing improvement measures. Prepare for the rapid post-crisis development. We offer Kaizen implementation in the following areas:

  • KAIZEN™ in the field of innovation and sales;
  • KAIZEN™ in the area of organization and strategy;
  • KAIZEN™ in operating activities.

LDaily: Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. The crisis has resulted in a change in the number of currently operating companies and those that will be operating in the future. What can companies do to accept these changes and survive the crisis with a competitive advantage?

I. Sarwar: During the pandemic, the Kaizen Institute™ conducted a study (KAIZEN Global Barometer). We surveyed companies of different sizes, sectors and countries. The impact of the pandemic on the economy is obvious. 82% of companies are cutting costs, while 53% of them have already started layoffs or are planning to do so. Still, there are positive discoveries — the vast majority of organizations (93%) are working in cyberspace and 61% of them are going to continue working there after isolation. At the same time, most companies reported reduced efficiency because of remote work.

Rapid adaptation to the changes caused by COVID-19 is the key to future survival and success in the face of the “new norm” and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The times of great uncertainty require decent, thorough, and well-organized management to create organizational stability and reliability. Changes are fast and companies need to respond quickly, efficiently and productively to adapt to them and find new opportunities to ensure our future stability and prosperity.

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