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What is change?

Change has the highest potential to cause fear and angst in the minds of all entities of an organization. It may cause loss of efficiency, production and quality if not implemented the right way. But , an organization needs to change continuously in a highly competitive environment to survive and sustain.   


The Japanese have always been at the helm of Quality Pyramid. They have contributed various models to world of management. Kaizen, a Japanese word for “Change for better” (Kai- Change and Zen – For Better/Good) is not a project, but a way of thinking/mindset which focuses on Continuous Improvement rather than being happy with a single, standalone change. Masaaki Imai, a Japanese management consultant and an organizational theorist popularised the word “Kaizen” in the West through his  book –  “Kaizen: Japanese Spirit of improvement”

Kaizen suggests continuous, small improvements in the business processes. Moreover, it should be followed by each & every employee of the organization (from top to bottom) on an ongoing basis. Japanese companies like Canon and Toyota follow the Kaizen methodology.

Each employee suggests 60-70 changes per year. The organization documents, shares and even implements these changes. Moreover, Kaizen doesn’t need major changes but small regular changes which aim at improving effectiveness and productivity. While the West focuses on the dictum – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the Japanese follow “Make it better, even if it isn’t broken”. Hence, this philosophy guarantees continuous improvement in quality and processes which helps them make “change” a way of life and not a one time project!  Kaizen consists of various models like : JIT, Kanban, 5 S , Quality Circles etc.


5S Principle

It works on the 5S principle : Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu-Seiketsu and Shitsuke.

     (a)  Seiri

To begin with, an individual needs to “Sort Out” (Seiri) his tasks. The items/tasks should be labelled according to the importance and urgency. One should dispose off the items or tasks  flagged as “useless” right away. One should avoid wastage of resources on such tasks/items. Hence, this step allows an individual to sort tasks in a new environment and focus only on the critical tasks.

     (b)  Seiton

Seiton suggests “organisation” of objects, tasks and activities which encourage an efficient work flow in an organization. One should designate a specific place to a document or object which is easy to access depending on the usage. During change management, the process should be logically set in order, allowing individual to gradually get habituated to new practices. The change implementation is ensured in the most resourceful manner.

     (c)   Seiso

Decluttering” (Seiso) the processes and workstation on a regular basis ensures a clean mindset and a work environment. During change, individuals tend to clutter their workstation and also their mind with items or tasks which are unnecessary/wasteful. Moreover, an organization can eliminate minor problems by regular inspection of such activities, encouraging discussions and asking questions.

     (d)  Seiketsu-Seiketsu 

Standardization” (Seiketsu-Seiketsu) is an important element of Kaizen. The organization should set policies and procedures in place to ensure order and quality at work. It aims at achieving order to an extent where every employee at a similar work station should be able to replace another right where he has left off and continue working at the same level of efficiency. In order to implement this, all the employees must know their responsibilities without any exception to ensure standardisation of the newly implemented change. Many a times, in a service industry, the quality of service changes with the individual providing the service.

     (e)  Shitsuke

“Self Discipline”, a rarity, is the most important aspect of change management. Adhering to rules and regulations is considered secondary as long as the work gets done in the end. Discipline is a by-product of the Japanese culture and is majorly responsible for the success of their country. Hence, in Change Management, maintaining focus on the new practices and not falling back to the old ones requires extreme discipline. Thus, it encourages an individual to embrace the change by following the rules and regulations set upon one’s self and not wait for an instruction or a warning to implement the change.

Thus, managing change effectively and continuously and not following redundant practices requires discipline, effort, willingness to change,motivation and communication among all the entities of an organization.

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