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“All CIOs should practice Kaizen”

Om Prakash Singh, AVP Group IT, Sona Koyo Steering Systems Ltd, talks about the benefits of the Japanese practice of Kaizen that helps find a collaborative solution for problems and enhances workplace productivity. By Pooja Paryani

In a career spanning over 20 years, Om Prakash Singh has consistently sought for better ways to integrate IT into business practices for organisational success. The last 10 years of his career have been spent at Sona Koyo Steering Systems Ltd, where he leads various initiatives and innovations to help business harness the power of IT. For his contributions, he was recognised as an Automobiles and Auto Ancillaries Icon at CIO Power List 2016.

Sona Koyo Steering Systems Ltd is a joint venture with a Japanese company, and over the years Om Prakash has imbibed a few helpful practices from the parent company. Kaizen, a small-step work improvement approach, is one such practice he’s found especially useful and he suggests all CIOs give it a try. “Kaizen is a Japanese word that has a very simple meaning—‘change for the better’,” he says. “Initially it was used by manufacturing organisations during yearly reviews, when they’d form a group of workers as well as a management team. They would all meet and discuss the issues they had been facing. The management team would identify the process and find the root cause. Once that was done they’d immediately take the action. They’d start with small steps that would help in improving the overall organisational culture and motivate the employees to feel engaged.”

“Now, Kaizen can be applied in any industry as it ultimately helps in improving not only productivity but quality, safety, moral and cost indices. As a ‘change for the better’ it’s become like a continuous improvement tool that has employee engagement across all levels, from the top to the bottom. Kaizen fits in well in scenarios where you plan innovative changes that have time and cost constraints, as it advocates small improvements and immediate implementation. In today’s complex work environment, a job is not equal to work. Rather, a job is work plus Kaizen. We need to improve every day. Although continuous improvement and breakthrough improvements are very much sought after, making and sustaining small incremental changes is very much essential so as to apply the brakes to prevent backsliding. Slow and steady wins the race.

“We use it on a daily basis in our organisation. The purpose of Kaizen goes beyond productivity improvement. We all sit together, share a problem and collectively come up with the solution after finding out the root cause. We also get to know how we can better our automation while redesigning the process. The decision is owned by all of us and we all enjoy the benefits as the Kaizen philosophy advocates. It really helps to create a better environment at work. Here are some reasons why all CIOs should lead this Kaizen initiative.”

1. It promotes a culture of engagement
“Through Kaizen, all employees across the organisation get involved in finding solutions together. People are divided on the basis of their responsibilities, and together they engage in better productivity practices. This can be implemented in any department, IT, sales, business, etc. Kaizen also brings in a lot of discipline as it emphasises executing things on time and making people work together in harmony. Self-implemented small improvements inculcate a sense of belonging and ownership among individuals. A Kaizen culture also develops an eye to locate and correct minor abnormalities and avoid bigger problems like accidents, equipment breakdowns and defects.”

2. Gives quick access to low cost solutions
“Kaizen has a scientific tool that helps the team find problems quickly and delve into their root cause. A CIO will be able to easily come up with solutions as the things required to solve the issue are all written down. It’s like how a doctor looks at symptoms, diagnoses an illness and accordingly gives the treatment.”

3. There’s immediate implementation of new ideas
“In our organisation we meet for 30 minutes and discuss the problems faced by all during daily activities. In the brainstorming process, the group will note down all the issues and work towards the solution. The benefits are also listed down, and immediate implementation of new ideas is started with the help of Kaizen.”

4. PDCA
“PDCA is a very strong monitoring method through Kaizen. It stands for Plan, Do, Check and Act. Plan to discuss; do the brainstorming; and check for problems and the solutions to get the desired solutions. Once you think you have the solution that will give you what you need, you act by implementing the discussed solution. Kaizen gives you the opportunity to correct the system as part of an on-going process. Do it now; improve later.”

5. Drives total quality management
“Kaizen touches upon every aspect in the organisation. It can even be applied in the canteen. It will include what you serve, how do you serve, how much time you need to take to cook and serve. If you have any complaints coming in from customers you simply find the issues and come up with a solution after viewing the complete scenario. If you find a problem in the timing, you can decrease the turnaround time. If the food is not good you can train the cooks accordingly and get better results. Likewise it is also applied at work; it brings in total quality management. You help people brush up on their knowledge by training them, improving turnaround time and get the results the organisation desires.

“Masaaki Imai, known for his development of Kaizen, puts it this way, ‘If you learn only one word of Japanese, make it Kaizen’.” 

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