Japan’s 'Kaizen' inspiring a 'continuous improvement' mindset for Ghana’s development
“Kaizen”, the secret behind Japanese efficiency continues to persist as the working methodology of improvement of quality and productivity widely applied in Japanese enterprises especially for manufacturing industries.
It is core to what propelled the Japanese automobile TOYOTA® from a smaller company to a current global competitive well-known company.
Though this Japanese word literally means “change (KAI) and good (ZEN), it simply defines as “Continuous Improvement” or “Change for the better”. Kaizen is about making a constant small improvement that leads to big transformation over time instead of making drastic overhaul that may not last.
Because of its success, Kaizen has been applied in many companies and made Japan an industrial state in the world. When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in America, studied the strength of Japanese Industries, they found that Kaizen was an important component for productivity and innovation. This study made Kaizen more famous and made it an international standard.
This kind of improvement is fundamental to the success and competitiveness of any organization or institution.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency, known as JICA, is the Japanese government agency for implementing official development assistance. It has been instrumentally promoting the concept of Kaizen in its technical cooperation since 2012.
JICA started operations in Ghana as early as 1963 and has since been cooperating in Ghana’s development widely in infrastructure (like roads and bridges, electricity and fishery ports), agriculture (mainly rice sub-sector), industry (SMEs), health (Universal Health Coverage), governance and education.
Under Industry/Private Sector engagement section, it implemented the following projects relating to Kaizen adoption in Ghana: Phase 1: The Project for Formulating a Strategic Model for Quality/Productivity Improvement through Strengthening BDS for MSMEs (2012-2015) and Phase 2: National KAIZEN Project (2015 – 2018).
Both projects were implemented with the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) as its counterpart. The Business Advisors of NBSSI received Kaizen training under these technical cooperation projects to strengthen their Business Development Services (BDS) to enhance the productivity of micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) in the country.
The results from these projects have influenced the growth of businesses immensely. So far, Kaizen has been implemented in more than 254 Ghanaian companies. Benefits include improved productivity averagely by 37%, increase in sales by 53%, reduction of defect rates by 45% amongst others. 51 Business Advisors have been equipped with KAIZEN methods to support Ghanaian business in 5 regions of Ghana.
NBSSI continues to provide KAIZEN service as part of its BDS provision and can be solicited by businesses from their offices all over the country.
Aside from Industry sector, Kaizen also has made impact in the health industry as well. Some multiplying effects in both sectors include; Increased productivity and quality resulting in profitability, Healthy and safe work environments preventing infections in factories and hospitals, Improved management support and supervision, Workers attitude have been refined due to bottom-up approach of Kaizen, Service and administrative improvement in hospitals, (Reduction of patient waiting time, reduction of incidence of re-infections, reduction of rejected laboratory samples, reduction of expired medicines).
Due to the positive impacts of Kaizen in earlier projects, JICA is working towards the formulation of a next project comprising an enterprise support project based on Kaizen dissemination.
JICA encourages national adoption of KAIZEN for national development and implores a strong commitment from higher-level officials, organizations and individuals.
To make government more aware of the multi-sectoral nature of Kaizen and its alignment to Ghana Beyond Aid vision, Chief Representative of JICA Ghana; Mr. Hoshi and the Ambassador of Japan in Ghana; H.E. Himeno met with the Senior Minister; Hon. Yaw Osafo Marfo earlier in June. Discussions centered on how Kaizen can propel the Ghana Beyond Aid vision.
Hon. Osafo Marfo affirmed the evidence shown by JICA on how Kaizen can be integrated into various sectors of development especially manufacturing and service delivery to boost productivity. He emphasized that a model that improves productivity could surely help to solve unemployment issues in the country.
JICA seeks further collaboration with Government to adopt Kaizen in initiatives such as NaBCO, 1D1F, PFJ, Free SHS and inclusion to educational curricula across all levels. Kaizen can provide cost efficient methods and easier application to existing systems in all sectors.
This year, in relation to the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VII) to be held in late August 2019, Kaizen will be exhibited as a side event topic for discussion.
“Kaizen”, a catalyst for every Government’s agenda.