Innovation and improvement

Kaizen activities were implemented by many dedicated companies including Toyota.
Kaizen activities should be one of the major factors Japan could be one of the greatest economic powers in the world.

Kaizen refers small changes by introducing a better method based on current situations.

On the other hand, innovation refers large changes which can totally change to new ways with zero based thinking.

Don’t you think innovation will yield larger results and sounds better?
A great consulting master which I got to know at the previous consulting work place used to say he prefers innovation which makes complete changes rather than Kaizen focusing on small continuous improvements.

Well, I also used to think innovation sounds cooler by designing the ways dealing with work and changing everything completely including operational process, computer system and lay-out, rather than implementing small changes such as relocating items to nearer or turning tools into a certain direction for storage that enables them to be taken out easily.

However, when I visited Toyota affiliated listed companies, for example, Toyota Gosei or Tokai Rika and heard from dedicated Kaizen activity staffs, each staff enthusiastically said,
“Delivering mall improvement is important”
“Even small kaizen which saves 2 seconds yields large results of over 2 hours a day for manufacturing 4,000 items.

I was listening them, but at that time, I didn’t get the meaning deeply.

I thought in my inmost heart, small kaizen was effective for them because they have many repeated operation and deal with large volume of work.

So, shall we focus on small continuous improvements than considering of innovation, and what is the relation between two?

First of all, we need to understand that there are many improvement opportunities for organizations from large issues (innovation level) to small issues (kaizen level).

And, it does not make good balance if you only focus on innovation or Kaizen. It is vital to implement variety of issues in well balance.

Needless to say, innovation level issues will be mainly implemented by executive managers and Kaizen level issues will be mainly implemented by staffs on the spot.

This is very important to note that innovation can be driven by executive managers though, that is staffs on the spot who will eventually implement.

Also, it is impossible that innovation will be smoothly developed as planned on desk and it will face trial and error.

If the staffs on the spot have improvement power to think and move to act, it will be relatively smooth to solve the problem despite temporary disruption.

If they are those who only perform what are told, disruption cannot be controlled.
It is often said that disruption continues over half year after new computer system or distribution system are implemented.

Those staffs who are involved in daily kaizen activities or QC circle activities are totally different from those who do not get involve in those activities.Small improvements themselves do deliver great results (no more space for this time to explain about this though) though, they would also establish base to implement innovation.