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Kaizen Culture: The Secret to Sustained Success

By Jabil's Blog 'Aim Higher'

Oct 03, 2013

Why do some companies consistently outperform their competition? Looking back in time, only 39 companies from the 1917 Forbes 100 list still existed in 1987 and only 18 actually stayed in the Forbes top 100 list. Looking forward, Foster and Kaplan think that over the next 25 years, only two-thirds of the major corporations will remain in the top S&P 500 list.

Innovation, great leadership and efficient business structure can impact performance, but alone do not guarantee long-term success. Increasingly, sustaining high performance is something many enterprises currently struggle to manage.



Every company has its own recipe for success, but one very powerful answer to achieving sustained long-term performance is kaizen. Back in the beginning of the twenty-first century, kaizen played a vital role in Toyota Motor Company outperforming General Motors and becoming the best automotive manufacturer in the world. Today, various organizations from manufacturers to hospitals implement kaizen methodologies for long-term sustainability and performance.

Kaizen, a Japanese term, means continuous improvement for everyone, everyday, everywhere according to kaizen thought leader, Mr. Masaaki Imai. It is not about making big changes quickly, but about small, incremental improvements that, over time, bring dramatic results. Even though kaizen and some of its strategies are now known as six sigma or lean manufacturing, the key principles remain the same; it is still about building a change-ready organization that has a customer-focused, gemba-oriented, continuous improvement culture.

After multiple acquisitions, steady growth, and weathering a tumultuous economic marketplace, Jabil turned to a Lean manufacturing philosophy to sustain competitiveness and build a company culture focused on continuously driving out waste. By investing in tools and training to engage and empower all employees, Jabil has benefitted from Lean combined with Six Sigma: over 32,000 projects in 2012 and over 2,000 certified Lean practitioners and 8,000 more in training.

"This is not only a program but a culture that is open and makes problems visible," says Jaime Villafuerte, Lean Six Sigma Director at Jabil and co-author of "Creating a Kaizen Culture: Align the Organization, Achieve Breakthrough Results, and Sustain the Gains."

Although Kaizen transformations are not easy and can end in failure, "they succeed if you don't give up.," says Jon Miller, CEO of Kaizen Institute Consulting Group. If a company recognizes that deploying a kaizen culture will be a long journey of going through many changes from how people work and behave to how you develop leaders and solve problems, their lean deployment will be successful. After all, kaizen transformations are about continuously improving and making what is good today, better tomorrow. One thing is certain in this journey: failure is not an option if you don't give up. It just might be the secret to sustained success.





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