My colleague, Roy, went on holiday to Japan recently — a well-deserved vacation. I was a little bit envious to be honest, but as the Japanese say, ‘shouganai’ (it is what it is). I haven’t been to Japan (yet), but I worked as a training manager for a Japanese company. That was an amazing experience, and it taught me so many things about the Japanese way of looking at work. I dare to say that after all these years, it still inspires me at work at least once a week.
When I reflect on it now, I think the core of its value lies in the structured, methodical way of working. When you trust a proven method and apply it with discipline, it will make your work much easier. The Japanese methods are best known for their focus on improvement, with Kaizen (kai means ‘change’ and zen means ‘for the better’) as the best-known term. In the first video, you will see ‘Mister Kaizen’ Masaaki Imai, the founding father, explain the meaning of Kaizen. He will also explain the seven types of waste (muda) as a way to recognise it and, of course, minimise it.
Although Imai later redefined Kaizen as ‘improvement by everyone, everywhere, every day’, most examples come from production settings. So, you need to translate it to your own context. Clark Quinn will help you with that in his ‘Test and Tune’ blogpost, in which he reminds us that we are in the people business. The fourth source is a more “romantic” perspective on learning waste that I wrote a few years ago. Highly recommended for whisky lovers. Cheers!