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Ask why: American states seek efficiency via Japanese way

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The Deming Prize is broadcast every year on Japanese television. Continuous quality improvement is actually based on this American's ideas in the 1950s which Japan whole heartedly adopted and used to become the powerhouse it is. He developed a 16 step model for continuous improvement, yet oddly it was not used in the USA becaused it ruffled the management style then and now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming

"""He is regarded as having had more impact upon Japanese manufacturing and business than any other individual not of Japanese heritage. Despite being considered something of a hero in Japan, he was only beginning to win widespread recognition in the U.S. at the time of his death."""

Now then, taking this article from this standpoint would be sweet poetic irony and vindication of an American model finally being used in America. The word IRONY needs serious translation into Japanese, clearly it's missing. Without it the real feeling of this article is lost on the reader, but not on history.

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Didn't know that sf2k, thanks for the info.

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I wish someone would get aroud to applying 'Kaizen' to the banks in this country. A customer base of 5, still takes 30 bank workers 30 minutes to resolve a very minor problem.

I wish someone would get aroud to applying 'Kaizen' to the fast food outlets in this country. It's the only place I've been where Macdonalds and fast food are oxymorons .

I wish someone would get aroud to applying 'Kaizen' to the local government offices, where it doesn't take me an hour and inspection by four government workers to get a photocopy of my marriage certificate.

I wish someone would get aroud to applying 'Kaizen' to the police force in this country.

I wish.......... Jeeeesuzzz, what a totally useless article. If companies want to really see the ''Toyota success', maybe they should look at the way Toyota screws over its subcontractors, makes its management work incredible hours of unpaid overtime, sometimes leading to Karoshi and passes as little of its profits onto its workers and shareholders, so it can invest it all in R and D.

Fuedalism seems a more appropriate translation of Kaizen..

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Just because the Japanese have a word for it doesn't make it the "Japanese way."

Do people really believe in "Japanese efficiency?" They haven't spent much time here, have they?

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Anyone who has worked in an Japanese office or had to take care local government paper work would know it isn't efficiency but 20 hour days that have put them on top.

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Heh, "efficiency" and "Japanese" in the same sentence.

Funny.

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DogDog, you took the thoughts right outta my head. Banks, city hall, 'fast' food joints, et al are not efficient in the slightest often times - and offices ... forget about it. American institutions follow any 'Japanese way' at their peril.

And in many, many instances in Japan the customer is NOT king ... he or she is usually at the mercy of whatever merchant/service provider they've forked over their premium amount of yen to. Ultimately, individual customers/consumers in Japan must merely expect to gaman/endure. Not so different in other places around this world, but certainly nothing to write home about.

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Bottom Line? It's good for the planet. The US can no more export its proven crap system abroad --via war or any other means-- as it can a SUV. Open, welcoming arms for socialism America; now THERE is the irony.

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I really want to ask: Why we need so much concrete on the rivers of our country? Why we need to pay heavy tax for subsidies of the farms. Why a corruption investigation stop when some one commit suicide? Why we cant vote the PM? Why we need an Imperial family? Why kaizen is used by Toyota but not for the central and local gobs?

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That's right, it was Dr. Demming and his management/process theory that introduced Japan to efficiency and quality. However, the Japanese bureaucracy has done a pretty good job of gumming it up.

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I liked te article. Anyhting that improves gov't efficiency is cool with me.

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in my (insert native, English-speaking country here) country, most (un)civil servants are much more interested in their own personal freedoms and self-preservation than they are serving the "public good". moreover, most workers in the private sector, instead of bending over backward to please customers, bend over forward to pat themselves on the back, pick up their paycheck and scamper off to the smoking area and/or duck out early on friday afternooons ... ha ha ha. don't be so quick to slag on the japanese. it may take them longer to do their jobs but, at least they're doing them. look at how the brits and yanks "fell asleep @ the wheel" and allowed the global economy to do a "jack kevorkian".

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'Kaizen' sorry, Japanese will spend so much time having a meeting about the meeting to think about having a meeting to think about introducing 'Kaizen' they will never have time to actually consider it.

I understand DogDog's feelings about the banks, it took me three and a half hour to open a bank account in Tokyo as I had no Japanese identification and was on a spouse visa at the time. However they never lost all the money out of my account for 3 days like one Australian bank did. Never the less, I have spent many hours in Japanese banks only to receive phone calls later in the day asking me to go back and fill in some form they forgot about. When you do finally blow up, the manager does comes to your house or hotel, full of bows and apologies with the correct forms, some thing not often seen done in other countries unless your a billionair but yes, Japanese banks badly need 'Kaizen'

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America does not need kaizen. Japan always needs more kaizen at many different occupations today and in future. America just do on its own way. Forget kaizen of Japanese way.

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The comments on this thread are interesting. Ditto for the article.

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yes, anytime you have a management style that cannot accept commentary even if it improves the company cannot use the Deming model (kaizen). Banks are a good bad example. Pick any game company in the world and that would also suck. But management itself is nothing to appreciate. What worker in the world would accept longer unpaid hours doing nothing of value while pining for contact with your family?

There is good and bad to compare anywhere, but sacrificing your life to the company was one thing I'm glad we missed. This has taught self reliance and entrepreneurialship instead of those who feel that suicide is an option. Work balance also needs kaizen, but I think the term can be seen as making drones, not people. Any thoughts on what to exchange the -zen kanji for?

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think of ways to best do their jobs. wow what a concept who would have thought of something like that mind boggling.

kaizen encourages people to ask “why” five times. from my experience in Japan, Japanese people are the least likely to ever ask why.

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Wasn't there the 'Six Hats Method' by Edward De Bono that supposedly revolutionised thinking at corporate and governmental levels? It seems that every few years there is another incredible life changing, business energizing thinking theory comes along.

Ultimately they come down to keeping things objective, doing away with unnecessary chatter etc. encouraging creativity and thinking outside the system parameters (outside the box). Oddly enough in my experience, the Japanese workplace doesn't seem to encourage these things at all.

Well, whatever works for you.

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Interesting article and comments.

I have found that most Japanese DONT ask "why"? When I ask them a "why" question the response is usually "becuase it's a rule" or "because it's Japanese style".

From what I have experienced Japan is hardworking but not efficient.

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"because it's Japanese style"

oh, nice classic one there! Can never get my mind around that

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Then why does it take so long to get anything done in Japan? The beaurocracy in both government and business. I guess the concept of kaizen is good, judging from the success in the US, but Japan has to practice what they preach. Maybe they need kaizen in the court system too... Listen to the song by the High-Lows called Soudan Tengoku. That's more like the real Japan.

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Mental light bulbs pop on. Epiphanies are experienced.

Um...in Japan it's more like a Scanners moment. Bring a mop.

I have found that most Japanese DONT ask "why"? When I ask them a "why" question the response is usually "becuase it's a rule" or "because it's Japanese style".

My experience, too, Med, although I would say that the local ward office staff here in Sapporo are hard working, efficient and very courteous. (Of course, they should be, since they get paid above the mean salary and have no risk of ever being laid off.)

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Ask "why?", dammit. That's an order!

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Lean Six Sigma. Born in the USA. Perfected by Toyota in Japan. But look what's happening to Toyota now? All the streamlining was fine when exports where going out, but now?

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I've seen kaizen applied at an American company and it works well for electronics manufacturing. It's simply a method that works for improving some businesses and government bureaucracies.

Whether or not it works can only be measured only by if it makes things better, not whether or not it remains bureaucratic. Whereas the logic being applied by some comments suggests a hospital is the most dangerous place to be because it's full of sick people. But this is JT after all.

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Uh, after 12 years here I've noticed nothing but a bungling bureaucratic mess, from the city, prefecture, and national level. It takes 5 different forms and 3 hours just to pay my property taxes. Paying the Aichi property taxes is another 3 forms and 2 hours. It took me 7 hours to get my drivers license, and yes it was the Japanese test. Sorry but I've yet to see kaizen in any government office here. Take a pen, a book, a sack lunch, and patience to get anything done.

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kaizen or (continuous improvement) always applies. It's human nature. what some of you don't understand, is that the efficiency that is increased is not alwasy the efficiency that you want. For example, the dude working at the register doesn't give a rip about efficiency regarding your order. The efficiency he is concerned about is how little effort and thought he can put in, and still get paid. Same with government offices. Toyota just is applying efficiency to selling cars, rather that maintaining an easy lifestyle for the workers.

Notice how that works? More cheaper products = crap conditions for the workers, while low quality, low speed products = easy life for workers.

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I worked at a Japanese travel company for awhile, and my boss was very enthusiastic about explaining the depth of Plan-do-check kaizen stuff. It was the only form of work process assesment I can recall him doing, and by him, I mean me, since that's what kaizen is about.

I don't dislike the theory. But I'm very skeptical of buzzwords and their lemming-like adoption.

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"Lean Six Sigma. Born in the USA. Perfected by Toyota in Japan"

Great in theory, generally ruined by the practioners. In my business we have ISO compliant systems with the usual built-in in continuous improvements (consistently better for 9 years now). When a six sigma black belt is bored and looking for something to do they claim they can save a million dollars. Following much time spent in meetings, making reports, repeated process mapping, being called a liar, providing data and then more meetings nothing has changed so far (been invaded three times now). The six sigma black belts do however speak 'senior management' and manage to convince the board they're busy creating 'added value' for the business. Bullshit baffles brains I suppose.

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