Is Kaizen possible in the Western Culture?

Throughout time, a diverse group of factors have been responsible for shaping culture as the world has gotten to know it. A sheer amount of different circumstances: political, historical, geographical, religious, economical, institutional, psychological, anthropological and sociological have been increasingly interwoven to shape and define the very nature of society. Methods, instruments, tools and corporate management systems are the result of different social groups: these have emerged within them, and to them, they are destined to, thusly, the world is offered different ways of addressing every management system in a specific field, whether political, economical or corporate.

However, management systems are subject to the passage of time and are ultimately influenced by every change and every new development —consequence of an ongoing tendency of improving the current statu quo—, unlike societies: that specific form of evolution is not only peculiar to such systems, but also peculiar to minor organizations and groups, like companies, businesses, brands and even individuals.

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Image courtesy of Sacha Chua at Flickr.com

For the sake of the argument, and agreeing upon the fact that what has been previously mentioned happens in reality, it would be possible to assert that that is the reason why some management systems seem to work for certain companies and produce excellent results, whereas the same systems seem to fail in other type of businesses, those of which have different characteristics. Most methodologies or management systems that were to some extent imposed in determined organizations failed at proving to be successful choices and performed poorly, at the very least. The major mistake, even made by management experts, seemed to have been to consider the world as something uniform; to believe that the same mindset is found in every corner. Of course, it should not be a surprise that, after trying to implement ideas, regardless of their nature (political, economical, cultural, educational and managerial), the outcome resulted far from what was expected at the very beginning.

There are, however, individuals who, having realized the impossibility of implementing the same idea (or management system) in different companies, still neglect to accept the necessity of embracing a systematic change. Fear of change is something commonly seen within the corporate world and is often explained by the executive’s stubbornness and loss of privileges. In such situations, executives, managers, or whoever is responsible for adopting a new management system dismisses the necessity by simply disregarding the plan based on the company’s nature. They believe it will not work, as things work differently.

Within this framework, there two important things that need to be solved. The first one is related to the extent to which it seems feasible to implement a system within a given socio-cultural and economic juncture different from the one where such system was conceived. And the second one, if such system could really be implemented, it would be necessary to assess whether the possible outcomes are aligned with the system’s performance. Expert David Kiger is known for having studied thoroughly different management philosophies and trends; he has written about specific ways of attaining an ongoing level of continuous improvement, including Kaizen. Be that as it may, since Kaizen is an oriental-based philosophy, it should not be taken lightly, nevertheless, its perks seemed to have proven to be extremely efficient; before even thinking of implementing it, western organizations ought to pay special attention as to whether this philosophy can be tailored to their nature, and assess whether making such changes can effectively result in a much greater outcome.

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Image courtesy of kiran Valipa Venkat at Flickr.com

As mentioned before, the very definition of Kaizen is inherently related to the connotation of continuous improvement. Moreover, its scope spans over several aspects aside from the corporate world: it can be conceived within someone’s personal life, social spheres and, ultimately, someone’s job. When applied to the corporate world, Kaizen involves every single person in a determined company. For the strategic point of view, this philosophy embodies a systematic action, whereas, in the long run, it aims at establishing a level of continuous improvement in hopes of outpacing a company’s competitors. Nevertheless, from the philosophic point of view, Kaizen is a way of life. It embodies the ongoing search towards excellence; it entails the individual’s discipline and strives to enhance their interactions not only within their socials spheres but also within his place of work.

Thusly, using Kaizen seeks to improve the overall performance in order to also improve both the quality of life of all the employees and the products, in hopes of providing customers with value-added products. By implementing Kaizen, a company generally seeks to better its current situation, however, it is of high importance to assess whether this philosophy can be implemented in its fullest form because, otherwise, it might end up being worse, and can, consequently, affect negatively the company’s expectations regarding future revenues and both levels of efficiency and effectiveness.

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