Editor's Comment

Kaizen concept: The way to go

MSISKA

THE adoption of the Japanese Kaizen principle of continuous improvement by Government is indeed timely and necessary for a country like Zambia that is struggling with low productivity levels in both public and private institutions.
Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr Rowland Msiska, said Government has adopted the kaizen principle as a tool for social and economic transformation with a view to eliminating waste of resources and improving productivity.
Kaizen strategy is a problem-solving and people-oriented process. It is defined as any process of continuous improvement in any area of life: personal, social, home or work, and when applied to the workplace kaizen means continuing improvement involving everyone – from top managers to least-ranking workers.
This principle was coined by Japan after the World War II. As post-war effects, most Japanese companies were not doing well and at the edge of extinction.
Japanese firms did not only use the principle of kaizen to revive their businesses but maintain a high level of excellence.
Different scholars have acknowledged that the kaizen principle has contributed greatly to Japan’s competitive success.
Beyond Japan, researchers have also associated the United States’ manufacturing industry’s dramatic gains in productivity to the transition from traditional methods of working to Japanese kaizen.
Kaizen is a versatile principle whose application involves everyone in the organisation, from top management to workers at the shop floor.
If well implemented, it has potential to support management activities such as cost reduction and time management, safety management, product design, productivity improvements, zero defects, maintenance management or new product development.
The adoption of this versatile principle will no doubt inculcate a culture where all public employees are actively engaged in suggesting and implementing continuous improvements to government processes and services.
We all know that the work culture in our public institutions leaves much to be desired. The productivity levels are generally low and quality of services is below par.
Unfortunately, this poor work culture is also creeping into private institutions.
As Dr Msiska pointed out, there is need for proper methodologies guided by tools and concepts like kaizen to improve the way government departments and businesses carry out their daily operations.
There is need for both public and private entities to adopt the kaizen work culture to improve the quality of products and services as well as improve productivity.
The kaizen principle has been known to boost the competitive advantage of companies world over by improving the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of employees.
Kaizen has a way of holding employees accountable to continuous improvement of products and services offered.
The principle also embraces the concept of ‘a customer comes first’, thereby continuously working to seek means of satisfying clients.
It is inspiring to hear that the Kaizen Institute of Zambia (KIZ) is already working to implement this principle in public and private institutions and that so far, it has supported 46 organisations.
According to acting Japanese Ambassador Shuichi Sakakibara, 16 kaizen consultants at KIZ and 60 co-ordinators have been trained to help in the implementation.
To get maximum benefits from this concept, we implore those charged with the responsibility of implementing it to do so knowing that our economic growth depends on it.
We expect the implementers in various organisations to help in sensitising employees on the concept as well as help come up with action plans to improve specific areas.
It is also our hope that the process of implementation will be closely monitored to ensure success or change of course in case of challenges.
Above all, we expect all progressive Zambians to support this concept, which is meant to lift us out of economic doldrums.

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