Kaizen Management means evolution under innovative form supported by a frame solid enough to face changes but at the same time, flexible enough to adapt rapidly thus obtaining competitive advantage. In the Kaizen Management customer, company, employees, the natural environment and society are equally important. That is way Kaizen Management offers a managerial model in which internal demands (of the company, employees and management) and external (of customers, suppliers, partners, etc.) are met by means of the techniques and practices used, supported by employees from all levels. According to Masaaki Imai, the founding father of the Kaizen Management, the model has a universal character being able to be applied in any country and company, regardless of its field of activity. In the context presented, this paper follows the evolution of the Kaizen Management in Romania from both an economical and social point of view. After introducing the main theoretical notions related to Kaizen Management, the apparition and propagation frame of the model in the companies in Romania, mentioning the significant aspects related to implementation, will be analyzed. Considering that the approach of the Kaizen Management in Romania follows the social development, too, the paper will finish with the analysis of the first two 5S Public actions done in Romania and Europe in order to identify the impact of the Kaizen philosophy up to this moment and shaping some provisions related to the Kaizen Management evolution in the following years in the economic and social direction.
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The present paper approaches a field to which the interest of practitioners has increased constantly since it appeared around the 1980's and up to the present. Created based on the evolution of the quality concept and in the favourable context of the appearance and development of organizational culture, national culture and intercultural management concepts, currently, Kaizen Management is considered to be the most performant management system in the world .
The concept is under continuous interdependency with the terms "muda" (loss/waste) and "gemba" (place of work). Because gemba represents the place where value is added on the one hand, by the good maintenance of the equipments and on the other hand, by eliminating muda, in Kaizen Management one aims at a practical approach with low costs in which continuous improvement is based on the involvement of the entire staff . The evolution's success factor is maintaining harmony  both in the work environment and in the private life of the Kaizen practitioners, for Kaizen is a philosophy which aims at the improvement of all environments it comes in contact with.
Regardless of the country they come from, culture or level of life they enjoy, people share a common need to work in a clean, safe and inviting space, in which they can find in the shortest possible time the necessary objects with minimum effort. Kaizen does nothing else than to transpose in common-sense rules these needs. Regardless if we are talking about the economic or private environment the principles of the Kaizen philosophy are easy to apply once they are understood. However, for its good functioning one requires enthusiasm, consistency and especially, discipline. Under the guidance of the Kaizen consultants and through top management, a company's structure, culture and management can be restructured, improved and brought to excellence.
In the context presented, this paper follows the evolution of the Kaizen Management philosophy in Romania, offering a general frame for the future companies which are going to embrace Kaizen techniques and practices.
A general overview on the Kaizen Management concept
Kaizen, Japanese term of Buddhist origin, can be summed up by the following words: "Renew your heart and make it better ".
The Kaizen Management concept, which first appeared in 1986, has Professor Masaaki Imai as main author, internationally renowned specialist, acknowledged in the field of management, presently, founding president of the Global Kaizen Institute with its main headquarters in Switzerland and with branches in the United States of America, Europe, Africa and in the Asia-Pacific area. Professor Masaaki Imai has implemented the "the Kaizen" concept promoting respect for human intelligence and creativity.
The most often used antonym for this concept is the well known "never mind, it works anyway!", because Kaizen can be illustrated by the phrase "always better ".
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
According to Imai, Kaizen (kai - continuous, ocean - and zen - well, improvement, wisdom) means continuous improvement not only in the professional life but in the social and personal one, too. Applied in the working place Kaizen Management means the continuous improvement of all, both managers and workers .
As opposed to the European and American philosophy, both focusing on innovation through significant costs, Kaizen promotes constant improvement, performances being obtained by progressing with "small steps", day after day, with minimum investments, the entire activity being done by active participation of all employees in the improvement process.
According to Masaaki Imai's plastic formulation "a step forward made by a hundred people is more valuable than a hundred steps made forward by their leader" . This evolutionist, perpetual process generates a series of advantages: productivity increase, loss elimination, general production/services cost reduction and breakeven point reduction, sustainable quality, delivery dates and work conditions improvement, employees' motivation and involvement in the continuous improvement of the company's performance through discipline and standardization.
Due to the benefits it brings in the structure of the organization in which it is involved, Kaizen management is considered the most viable alternative of our days under the conditions of labour market development and competition. Based on a solid structure, with very clear principles, Kaizen represents the perfect balance between adaptability, continuous improvement through change and reliability.
Kaizen Management evolution has been tightly connected to that of quality management, process in which many experts in the field of quality have taken part (W. Edward Deming, Joseph M. Juran, Philip B. Crosby, Armand V. Feigenbaum, Walter Shewhart, Kaoru Ishikawa, Taguchi and Groocock ).
After the fusion of their ideas kaizen techniques and practices have been created, strategically thought to be implemented anywhere in the world, regardless of the country's or company's culture in which they end up working, Masaaki Imai subscribes to this idea saying that Kaizen Management can be applied in a wide range of fields other than the economic ones such as governmental services, schools and other institutions, this thing being useful even in countries characterized by controlled economy.
Kaizen Management's main methods, practices and techniques are:
for making production processes more efficient: CWQM (TQM) - Total Quality Management, TFM - Total Flow management, TPM - Total Productive Maintenance, VSM - Value Stream Mapping and TSM - Total Service Management;
for organizing the work space and reducing losses or defects: Gemba, 5S, Visual Management, Muda, Mura, Lean, 6Sigma and Kamban;
for identifying the roots of the problems: the Cause-effect chart (Ishikawa), 5Why Analysis;
for motaviting employees it uses the suggestion system, teian.
The purpose of these techniques acknowledged at international level as continuous improvement methods, through small steps, of economical results of the companies in which they were implemented, is to bring together all of the company's employees for improving the communication process and cementing the feeling of belonging. On a tough competitive market, such as for example that of the European Union, the benefits of the Kaizen Management offers a significant competitive advantage .
Kaizen philosophy in Romania
After the year 2000 one could notice an intensification of the relationships between Romania and Japan economically, as well politically, socially and culturally. Even though the quality management culture has had a stronger support in the last decade through bodies such as the Romanian Society for Quality Assurance (S.R.A.C.), the Romanian Movement for Quality (M.R.C.), the Romanian Association for Quality (A.R.C.), Romanian Foundation for Quality Promotion and the Foundation Romanian Prize for Quality "J.M. Juran".
After establishing the Romanian Kaizen Institute in 2004 the gate to Japan and implicitly Kaizen Management was opened. Even though the list is non-exhaustive currently one can assert that at national level there are 15 main bodies that support the promotion of quality management for the benefit of natural persons and legal entities. Out of these Quasaro, Braco, IKaR, Kaizen Manager Club, Kaizen Training and Consulting offer consultancy, certification and expertise in the field of Kaizen Management, facilitating the development of the Romanian-Japanese economic and social environment.
The Clean Up Japan Association, in collaboration with Kaizen Institute Romania, Kaizen Manager Club and AOTS Alumni Society Romania help promote the Japanese culture in the Romanian environment through activities they make in collaboration with local authorities and companies that function according to the Kaizen Management techniques and practices. Japanese Romanian Business Association facilitates the commercial and economic collaboration with Japan promoting Romanian products on the Nippon market while the two Embassies offer the framework for the development of bilateral relations between Romania and Japan both on economic, political and cultural level.
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Through the activity these bodies have annually, the Kaizen philosophy and quality culture gains more and more interest. Only eight years after the Kaizen Institute Romania was established its portfolio encloses a diversity of services offered to companies, employees and societies alike. Thus, one can speak about Kaizen for companies and SMEs through the consultancy, training and qualification services, Kaizen staff for the personal and professional development of managers and employees, Kaizen for youths for their harmonies development and social Kaizen through the 5S public actions . The Kaizen philosophy slowly becomes for companies and employees, youths and society alike, a life style in which performance and efficiency as well as the value of each individual is truly cherished.
One can assert that presently Romania is living the experience of some complex changes identifiable at the level of all organizations types . The bureaucratic type culture highly political until 1989 is slowly being replaced by the entrepreneurial type culture which can especially be found within private share firms established after the creation of free market mechanisms in Romania.
Together with this change the shaping of values preoccupied with setting realistic goals and creating pragmatic action strategies that will generate product and services performance and quality, taking into consideration the care for the environment, began . This change determined that more and more Romanian employees leave the traditionalist, inertial and change resistant bureaucratic institutions in order to work in entrepreneurial organizations in search of accomplishments, prosperity, significance and direction. More so, even though the vast majority of new entrepreneurs do not possess the knowledge and skills necessary for creating a coherent strategic perspective or dynamic adaptation to the external environment yet they are enthusiastic and dedicated to their firm, essential characteristic for Kaizen leaders. One requires credibility, that is why reforming visions regarding the development of their firm are communicated to the employees with enthusiasm, thus generating a sense of belonging (the organisation "as a family"), of the involvement and commitment of solving the organization's problems .
These complex transformations are developed on a social foundation in which with every day that goes by an acute need for the promotion of real values and for their correct hierarchy in which the employees know the meaning of belonging to a certain organization, the purpose and direction of the activity they render is pointed out. And this particular social background justifies the Kaizen Management implementation.
Kaizen Management in Romania
In a broad sense, Kaizen techniques and practices implementation in the companies in Romania has as purpose the performance culture development on all organization levels by involving the entire staff and preparing the Romanian companies to become competitive on the global market.
In the industry field, the general purpose of the Kaizen Management implementation is represented by the continuous improvement of product quality, costs reduction and shortening delivery dates, requests brought mainly by customers. As far as the general objective is concerned, it aims at increasing productivity and reducing production implementation .
In the field of public services, the main purpose consists of increasing services performance and implicitly, reducing internal costs, the objective being reducing the process development duration ( Lead time - Lt) with minimum 20% and synchronizing the service rendering activities and the informational flux .
In Romania, the Kaizen Management practices have been implemented in a very wide range of companies, from banking institutions and local councils to companies that offer products and services, or academic institutions. Among them there are companies that activate in the car industry (Takata-Petri, BOS Automotive, Star Transmision Cugir), transport (Bucharest Airports , Signus RO Distribution, Damen Shipyard Galati), banking (Romanian Commercial Bank, Transylvania Bank, Volksbank Romania), companies that offer design services (National Land Register Agency, Cambric Consultancy), architecture (Architect Services), but also public services in county councils (County Council Arges, Bucharest Mayoralty), or national state agencies. Also, other significant sectors are production (Grup Romet, Artic TârgoviÅŸte, Pirelli România , 10th Bearing Plant, Aromet, Bega Electromotor, Contor Zenner, Romstal, Swedwood România, SAFT Power Systems, RAAL) and products/services (BiborÅ£eni, Murfatral România, Martelli Europe, Japan Tabacoo International (JTI), Romdrinks Eurotrade ).
Regarding Kaizen Management implementation in the firms in Romania, at the chapter obstacles in the path of quality improvement and company's profitability increase through Kaizen, at the top of the list "mentality" and "staff's resistance to change"  are placed at the top of the list. However, according to those in charge with Kaizen Management implementation both obstacles are significantly influenced by the lack of information, reason for which a decisive factor in ensuring the successful implementation of the Kaizen Management is held by the company's management. "The company's management does not always assume the role of employees' mentality shaper" says Julien Bratu, director of Kaizen Institute Romania. In order to solve this aspect, seminars are held (workshops) destined for top/middle management training for increasing the speed of employees' mentality change and reducing resistance to change.
After having analyzed some companies in Romania that have implemented Kaizen Management it was identified that once the work techniques and practices are explained the employees end up embracing the company's organizational culture and supporting Kaizen Management. The majority of the employees consider that the biggest change Kaizen Management brings is the organization's openness toward new, underlying the importance of team work and stimulating imagination, long term planning and practicing common sense rules that require the commitment of all, regardless of the level.
An aspect pointed out regarding the companies in Romania that apply Kaizen Management is that they are characterized by a culture perceived more at the level of practices, the mentality of the Kaizen philosophy is not always adopted in the employees' life style.
In other words, Romanian employees adapt to the work style of a culture as long as they can benefit from it. The Romanians do not take the basics of certain work practices (regardless of culture), they only take the form because of the performant system of motivation and reward. However, properly identified and used, this particularity of Romanian employees can bring benefits to employees and company, customers, end consumer and, last but not least, to society and the natural environment.
The management of one of the companies with the most efficient type of Kaizen Management in Romania stated that for the facilitation of Kaizen Management implementation courses and activities maintenance are prioritised, these two favouring staff integration (to these adding the visible know-how transfer, benchmarking, efficient communication between levels and understanding the concept of "team work"). The credibility of Kaizen managers and referents is essential in involving employees in company activities, and that is why the motivational and rewarding system needs to be generous, as a consequence, employees living up to the level of expectations.
The informational transfer is done between levels facilitating activity maintenance, supervision and solving problems in the shortest period of time. In general terms, it was determined the Kaizen techniques implementation requires a period of at least 6 months for ensuring activities stability and continuity. It is believed that in deed cultural differences can be harmonized by the organizational culture, the statement being based on the argument according to which promoting a healthy organizational culture based on truth, justice and mutual respect is applicable in any company because employees react in the same manner everywhere on the globe, at the core their needs being the same.
However, in case they are requested, small differences can be agreed upon. Due to the fact that the Kaizen Management here in Romania is adapted to Romanian market particularities, companies end up making certain concessions for employees (regarding uniforms or style of work) yet keeping the integral structure of work practices and techniques. However, the main vision is that once the work conditions are changed, the employees' behaviour will change as well. By changing the work manner and environment, people and culture change, too. As a consequence, the differences regarding national cultures are not noticed as a significant influence factor.
A recommendation regarding Kaizen Management implementation by companies would be the following. For starters, one has to consider the argument according to which "management" in itself is a cultural system which, many times, is incompatible with "native's" predetermination. This is why the recommendation refers to the correct identification of cultural differences that influence the company's management for the continuous improvement of working systems. It is considered that one type of intercultural that is efficient in Romania is a management that acts according to a hybridization logic thus taking into consideration elements of the "general intercultural management" adapted to the reality in Romania and the post-socialist work ethics as a fundamental cultural difference .
In order to facilitate this aspect, company management needs to be able to transmit employees the idea that cultural differences are an inexhaustible improvement source, aspect manageable by intensifying benchmarking processes in firms in the same area in order to support the rise of competitiveness level.
If we take into consideration the argument according to which "there is no good management which produces a good management, only a good management, adequate to the suggested culture", it is understandable why when the reproduction of success, it is not the management system that needs to be reproduces but to create management systems adapted to management because, as Peter Dupriez states, "all management is cultural ".
Social Kaizen Social Kaizen
In the moment in which the individual decides to continuously improve his life, the effects of his actions are firstly seen on the environment in which he develops his activity. This environment, whether we are talking about the infrastructure of the work space or we refer to the persons it comes in contact with day after day, it ends up perpetually changing according to the evolution of the person in case. In time, the effects can be noticed in the community, then in society and last but not least, on nature.
The natural environment is the most pragmatic reflexion of human action. One has to be aware of the fact that each individual and company is part of a vast system which, in order to develop and reach performances in total harmony with the environment, requires the involvement of every sub-system. As a consequence, small improvements are required, sprung from activities done at reduced intervals and to which an increasingly larger number of people can participate.
In the virtue of these ideas, Kaizen Institute Romania has undergone in October of 2011 the first social Kaizen activity through a series of 5S public workshops in three of the most important cities in Romania. The project "Japanese glow for the cities of Romania" which took place in Brasov - 11th of October, Timisoara - 13th of October and Alba Iulia - 14th of October pointed at the development of individual conscious in order to raise the community's awareness regarding the care toward public space.
The project organizers were Kaizen Institute Romania, Kaizer Manager Club Romania and AOTS - Japanese Management Association in Romania who were joined by Clean Up Japan Association, Kaizen Institute Japan, local authorities and a series of experienced kaizen companies (e.g. Hirschmann, Assa Abloy, Takata-Petri etc) but also kaizen companies found in the beginning stages (e.g. Supremia, Stabilus, Eldon etc). Last but not least, asked to participate were volunteers from interested NGOs, associations, clubs, as well as representatives of the local community.
The project was considered a success due to the fact that, aside from visible physical results (250 volunteers including 6 mayors and vice-mayors, 7 news posts and 1500 km travelled in one week), a first step was done in removing two of the most acknowledged obstacles previously mentioned in the Kaizen practices implementation: "disbelief in the Kaizen philosophy" due to lack of information and "peoples' resistance to change" due to the mentality" it also works like this". Through the project "Japanese glow for the cities of Romania", the volunteers were able to realize that 5S is a way of expressing the Kaizen spirit in the public life space, but also a lifestyle which helps them and those around them to grow.
Regarding the project's impact on the community and society, the results are considered through the perspective of purpose accomplishment. The proposed purpose was to improve cooperation relations between the public partners of a city's life.
Thus, one could notice that people started thinking in "Kaizen style" right after they become aware of its significance. Either if by Kaizen one understands the attitude of always being better and to change for the better the things around, which depend on each individual, or if it is perceived as a philosophy in which justice, peoples' value, common sense and order represent the most important pillars, it is important that the philosophy begins to take shape in peoples' minds. The management of the Kaizen Institute Romania considers that the purpose was mostly reached if one takes into account the participants' reaction and especially the national and local mass-media echoes from after the event.
Even though the "Kaizen - 5S Public" type workshops are considered to be able to change, in time, the behaviour and mentality of Romanians developing individual conscious, according to Julien Bratu, in this incipient phase one can only speak about creating an opening toward a behavioural change and of consolidating the hope that society can change if it wants to. He added that based on the experience he has acquired in working with partner companies, he was able to note that Kaizen Management shapes and improves in a harmonies way the life and thoughts of those who practice it, individually, as well as collectively.
None the less, the director of the Kaizen Institute Romania believes that in order to be able to talk about a real change in the society's mentality the realization of a 5S Public action at least once a month is necessary in a systematic manner for 3 consecutive years. Thus, the extrapolation of the 5S Public actions at national level could be done in 10, 20, 50 or 3 years, according to the comprehension power of the Kaizen values manifested from the political level.
Due to the fact that the need to develop social awareness projects by using Kaizen Management techniques, practices and methods was understood, in the period of 13th - 14th of March 2012, the Kaizen Institute Romania has organized in collaboration with KAIZEN Manager Club, AOTS Romania (Japanese Management Association), County Council Alba, RNP ROMSILVA - Forestry Directorate Alba, "Axente Sever" Local Centre of the "Romanian Scouts" National Organization and with the support of the companies SUPREMIA GRUP, HIRSCHMANN Romania and ASSA ABLOY Romania , the project "Kaizen for Alba County".
The project focused on two directions within which two new programs for the development of the economic environment and society were launched.
The first of the direction took place on the 13th of March and addressed the economic sector. The product "Kaizen for SMEs" is destined to support the continuous performance development of small and medium Romanian companies in the context of an environment in which one still feels the effects of the financial crisis. The Implementation program has objectives structured on 3 levels :
Level 1: implementation of basic standards from the Kaizen culture;
Level 2: developing performance in processes by applying Kaizen techniques;
Level 3: obtaining top performance in its business field from the point of view of quality, efficiency (low costs) and delivery speed.
It is considered that once more and more SMEs will adopt Kaizen Management the results obtained by them will facilitate the promotion of Kaizen Management in the field. Presently, promoting management in order to raise the concept's visibility level is equally important as implementation itself.
The project continued on the 14th of March when the program "Individual Kaizen for youths" was presented, the first personal development program offered by the Kaizen Institute Romania focused on obtaining personal performances through the individual strategic management. What makes it different from the "Gemba Kaizen College" and "Kaizen for employees and organization" is the fact that it is not focused strictly on the development of the employees in the organization but it addresses all persons with a "young spirit".
This imitative was born out of the Kaizen Institute Romania's desire to focus on the civil society's durable change. At the basis of this program was the premise according to which mentality change can be done easily from the young level of the population because young people are the most permissible to change, adopting an open and non-discriminator attitude in relation to innovative ideas. It is believed that this program directed toward raising personal productivity and disciplining the mind and spirit could bring, in time, a significant change at the social level in Romania.
The changes would be first felt at behavioural level and at the level of the attitude towards work then, in the mentality to work and in the expected results and last but not least, regarding the life style. Starting from a young generation, the next generations could promote a lifestyle based on equity in actions, performance and care for the environment and fellow humans.
Even though the title of the program suggests that the target group is exclusively that of "youths", due to the high number of requests the Institute's management has declared that the program shall address all those "with a young spirit" so that all those who are interested, regardless of age, can participate in the courses offered by KI Romania.
The last stage of the project "Kaizen for Alba County" consisted of making the action "Kaizen for People and Nature" which has followed the harmonious development of youths and implicitly, the increase of the value brought by them to society, by applying principles of natural evolution. The action aimed at planting seedlings in Oarda locality, 5 km from the city of Alba-Iulia, with the help of 118 volunteers willing to contribute to the harmonious development of the environment. The leaders of the local public authorities were also present - President of Alba County Council, the Prefecture, the Mayor and Vice-Mayors of Alba-Iulia Municipality.
The entire action took place based on the structure of a Gemba Kaizen workshop. Among the results of this activity are: the planting of 700 seedlings 5 km from Alba Iulia, raising the interest related to Kaizen philosophy, raising the level of awareness regarding responsibility for the environment and future generations, raising individual conscious, a better collaboration between state institutions, private institutions, NGOs, media and society and last but not least, enthusiasm.
From the feed-backs offered by the participants in the actions one could identify the fact that the volunteers have passed along to their families and friends the information regarding the utility of Kaizen Management in private life. Thus, acquaintances have discovered that they can organize their daily activities better, maximizing their potential and ending up working more efficient. As an effect, Kaizen philosophy has extended its boundaries outside undertaken actions.
Kaizen Management implementation and functioning in companies from Romania is possible. Everything starts in the mental. As long as there are no pre-conceived ideas and stereotypes, cultural diversity is not perceived as a disadvantage and believable support is offered in implementation, Kaizen Management can be implemented in a large spectrum of fields .
It is not about changing Romanians into Japanese, but of adapting a management style whose performance and viability have repeatedly been proven to a system in which improvements are necessary, can be continuously created and require the involvement of all employees.
Resistance to change and disbeliefe in the Kaizen philosophy reliability are favored mainly by the lack of information. As a consequence, in order to change mentalities and improve society by means of Kaizen techniques and practices, the increase of the philosophy's visibility at national level is necessary.
Regarding the future of the Kaizen philosophy on national level, experts in the field consider that it will have an ascendant direction, ending up to be found in organizations as well as in the employees' everyday life and those interested in continuous improvement. The key of the Kaizen philosophy's evolution, both on economic and social level, consists in promoting the philosophy as management style and life style.