Continuous improvement means just what it says. It is a philosohy that encourages
all employees in an organisation so that they perform their tasks a little
better every day. It starts from the assumption that business processes (e.g.
production methods, purchasing, recruitment) can always be
So why the use of the term Kaizen? Kaizen is a system for generating and implementing employee ideas developed in
Japan. The Kaizen suggestion scheme helped many Japanese companies improve quality and productivity,
which allowed them to offer better products at lower prices and therefore
increase their market share.
Much of the success of Kaizen came about because the system encouraged many
small-scale suggestions that were cheap and quick to implement. They also
came from shop-floor employees - who had a detailed appreciation of the benefit
each change might make to the process concerned. By implementing many small
improvements, the overall effect was substantial.
One of the most publicised aspects of the Japanese approach to quality management
is the idea of Quality Circles or Kaizen teams.
Professor John Oakland (a leading authority on quality) defines a Quality
Circle/Kaizen Team as a group of workers who do similar work and who meet:
>In normal working time
>Under the leadership of their supervisor
>To identify, analyse and solve "work-related"
>To recommend solutions to management
Evidence of successful Quality Circles suggests that there are no formal
rules about how to organise them. However, the following guidelines are
>The circle should not get too large -
otherwise it becomes difficult for some circle team members to contribute
>Meetings should be help away from the work area -
so that team members are free from distraction
>The length and frequency of quality
circle meetings will vary - but when a new circle is formed, it is
advised to meet for about one hour, once per week. Thereafter, the
nature of the quality problems to be solved should determine how
often the circle needs to meet
>Quality circles should make sure that
each meeting has a clear agenda and objective
>The circle should not be afraid to
call on outside or expert help if needed