Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Change to Become Good

During the opening session of the 2009 NCTIES Conference, Vicki Davis encouraged her audience to follow the Kaizen philosophy of slow, steady improvement. I knew nothing about Kaizen but I liked the inference so I went to Google and began searching for an overview of the concept.

Background Information
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy developed in the 1950's to help restore the nation after World War II. American systems of standardization and statistics based process improvement were the basis of the concept that focuses on continuous improvement. Toyota is well known for implementing the approach to improve productivity. Masaaki Imai, author of Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success, is credited for making the term famous.

Key Points
  • The Kaizen approach can be applied to all aspects of a business and involves every employee. External partners can also participate in the process.
  • This is a culture of small, continual improvements and standardizations that lead to large gains.
  • Kaizen is a daily activity that uses the scientific method to elimate waste and humanize the workplace.
  • This is a cyclic approach similar to the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act).
  • Training and support are needed to set standards then constantly improve those standards.
  • So how does this apply to education? Proponents claim this approach works well in collective cultures where long-term change is needed. We talk about 21st Century tools and systems but delay implementing them. Slow and steady progress will help us break past molds and reach our goals. Let's have reflective meetings that embrace the concept of a Kaizen blitz or a Kaizen event to focus on particular issues holding us back.

    We all face challenges at work, at home and in our communities. Let's look for ways to make small changes that will improve our quality of life. The Kaizen philosophy reminds us of the need to constantly move forward inch by inch. In Japanese, Kai means change or the action to correct and zen means good.

    Let's make a commitment to change to become good.

    Wikipedia article on Kaizen
    Value Based Management article on the Kaizen method
    Graphic Products Kaizen tutorial
    Strategos overview of Kaizen

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