The country severely punished after World War II managed to become one of them most successful and well economically developed countries in the world that exports its products virtually to all parts of the planet.
Moreover, Japanese goods are known to be of high quality and reasonable price. Americans faced the problem of competing with Japanese products.
In middle nineties the U.S. and Japan started a real war for automobile market since Americans preferred to buy Japanese cars but not American ones. How is it possible that Japanese companies manage to keep reasonable prices for their products and maintain the highest quality standards?
The answer may be found in Kaizen which is translated from Japanese as "continuous improvement." It should be mentioned that Kaizen philosophy works only in case it is adopted and accepted by everyone in the company, just like Balanced Scorecard. If every employee from ordinary worker to top manager or business owner is thinking of the ways to improve something and the company, can you imagine what fantastic results can be achieved?
No wonder, Japanese companies are so competitive. Sure, this is partially explained by Japanese lifestyle, commitment to work and morale. Japanese people are often called workaholics, and we should admit that it is partially true. Kaizen concept is often used in European companies, however a number of problems are observed there. So, let's review key Kaizen principles as well as reasons for Kaizen failure.
We have already mentioned "continuous improvement." Kaizen philosophy implies that there is nothing perfect in business, and that's why there is always something to be improved. Indeed, this is a great approach since in such a way the company never stops in its development.
Either way, the development does not only mean expansion but also improvement. According to the Kaizen concept, even something that was improved yesterday may need improvement today and tomorrow. In such a way, companies are able to decrease costs for their products, cut products production cycle and release products of the highest quality.
Kaizen philosophy works at its fullest potential only when accepted by both top managers and ordinary employees. At that, the initiative should come from top management who should set a personal example to lower level managers. If ordinary employees understand that top management is not honest in their promotion of Kaizen philosophy they will never consent to use it in their work.
It happens that Kaizen fails in European companies. There a several reasons explain in this fact. Differences in mentality is one of the major reasons. European employees are more individual and very often think more about themselves than the company they work for. Even if they seem to be using Kaizen they only pretend doing so. That's why it is extremely important to properly motivate employees to continuously improve their work.