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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Conitnuous improvement is more than repetitive improvement

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I’m CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work. They’re already completely busy doing their regular work. Moreover, this company is in the outdoor sports industry, and many people join these companies because they want time to climb, backpack, canoe, etc., and I’m reluctant to ask them to work more hours and sacrifice time for these activities. Any advice?

Hi Edgers,

I believe an improvement in the true lean context is continuous (as opposed
to the often deceptive repetitive improvement). That being the case, how
can one afford not making time for that? Time is relative, what they don’t
have is called priority, and Kaizen is not their priority. People who
understand the benefit of Kaizens, make them a priority. They make time to
exclusively devote to these activities.

Some of the Toyota plants I’ve been in contact with handle this vital
priority differently on the shop floor level. Toyota Honsha stops the line
once the shift goal has been reached and focuses the remaining time on
Kaizens, 5S, SW updates, PDCA, QCC, etc. So in Japan there was not a fixed
periodicity for those activities, they could happen a couple of times a week
as well as none for the entire week. Toyota Brazil used to stop the entire
plant for a half to one hour once a week so everyone could devote to TPS
activities. TMP in the Philippines would give teams overtime for this type
of activity. Regardless of the differences, one common theme was that the
TPS activities were so important that they all made sure there was an
exclusive time dedicated for that.

It is a tricky proposition to ask hardworking people to put in “more” hours
to do Kaizens. But if done correctly, not only will their existing work be
improved (less overburden, waste, etc), but also, their jobs will be
preserved. The stress of continuously improving dwarfs in comparison to
the stress of not knowing how much longer your organization will survive.
Remember General Motors in 2000 was bragging about record profits and only
seven years later was posting record losses quarter after quarter, until
filing for bankruptcy in 2009.

Have a nice week,
Sammy

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