In part 1 of my recent discussion with Jon Miller, Kaizen Institute Consulting Group CEO and co-author of Creating KAIZEN™ Culture, we talked about how a KAIZEN™ culture can be created in SMEs. In this second instalment we focus on how a KAIZEN™ culture can be created in local branches where much of the direction, strategy and control come from overseas parent companies.
Jon: There is no real conflict with KAIZEN™ culture to have direction and strategy come from overseas parent companies, assuming that the parent company embraces a KAIZEN™ culture. The strategy development and deployment session in a KAIZEN™ culture is sufficiently collaborative, reality-based, and subject to continuous improvement on the basis of progress review cycles of at least monthly frequency. In Japanese this is called hoshin kanri and in English policy deployment. It is simply applying KAIZEN™ principles and the Plan Do Check Act cycle to business strategy planning and execution.
That is the ideal case, what if the overseas parent company does not embrace a KAIZEN™ culture and instead manages only for results and does not care about the process.
Jon: For these local branches it will be very difficult. However, this problem is no different than having a boss in the same country who does not support it. Their leadership behaviours will undermine efforts to build and maintain KAIZEN™ cultures.
Should these organisations give up or wait and hope that one day their leaders will embrace a KAIZEN™ culture, or is it possible for them to create some form of KAIZEN™ culture from the bottom up?
Jon: It is definitely possible to create isolated and local KAIZEN™ cultures in spite of a lack of support from the top. However, the challenge is to know the difference between trying to make a living thing grow within an ecosystem that supports it poorly, and one that is actively hostile against it.
For instance, desert can be reclaimed by restoring the soil and plants that can thrive in that particular climate. However, this is much harder in a flowing lava bed. The corporate analogy is when the overseas parent company dictates both the results and the process or means to achieve the results, with no regards or respect to local conditions. When there is a minimum of mutual respect and understanding, and empowerment or simply true delegation to allow the local management to achieve the results using locally appropriate means, it is possible to create a KAIZEN™ culture bottom-up. In the same way, any leader of a team can create a KAIZEN™ culture within their team by practicing KAIZEN™ principles in their daily work, developing their people, which in turn can influence others who see the change and like it.
The point is to understand your ecosystem and either adapt to it or begin converting a small part of it to be more hospitable, not fight against it.
Remote branches can create KAIZEN™ culture and they can be closely linked and in step with their overseas parent companies' KAIZEN™ culture. It is obviously far from ideal, but even when overseas parents or top management teams do not embrace KAIZEN™ culture, it is still possible to create KAIZEN™ culture from the bottom up or within in a smaller team. The ultimate hope and objective is that once KAIZEN™ culture takes hold in such a committed smaller team, there will be sufficient benefit and motivating for the uncommitted overseas parent or top management to get on board.
In the next blog post I'll summarise Jon's thoughts about creating KAIZEN™ culture in organisations with high staff turnover because of part time or seasonal workers.
Also read Part 1 Creating KAIZEN™ culture in SMEs.