No silver bullet
The first people to point out the limitations of Kaizen are those Japanese workers striving to ignite the Kaizen movement in Ethiopia.
“Kaizen is not almighty,”
Kikuchi says. In addition to embracing Kaizen’s brand of production management technology, a company also needs to nurture business management technology, manufacturing technology, and designing and planning technology if it is to grow: “You need to strengthen all four – not just Kaizen,” Kikuchi says.
And despite Kaizen’s focus on achieving more with the same resources and equipment, that shouldn’t be taken as a means to avoid investing in new equipment, Kikuchi points out. Kaizen typically results in gradual improvements – if you want rapid change then often you simply need to splash out on quality machinery. Furthermore, there are other important factors beyond the production side such as marketing and finance which can’t be neglected.
There are some who question whether the Ethiopian government really understands that striving to increase capital also needs to include increasing Ethiopia’s precious social capital to ensure future development.
But at the micro level it appears Ethiopia’s social capital is gaining in no small part due to Kaizen. And not just in the workplace. Peacock Shoe Factory’s plans and programme manager, Dawit Birasa, said his home and lifestyle is neater and more organised as a result of his exposure to the lessons of Kaizen.
One of Ethiopia’s most popular radio stations even broadcasts a weekly hour-long programme dedicated to Kaizen.
It can appear that everyone is signing up for the Kaizen treatment. JICA has been liaising with the African Union Commission (AUC) on the creation of a Kaizen Unit within the AUC to help establish Kaizen culture and improve the quality of AUC’s services provided to its member states and stakeholders.
For the foreseeable future, all evidence suggests Kaizen is here to stay in Ethiopia. So don’t be surprised to find more Amharic renditions of a word that when translated gives a particularly Japanese sense of business.
“Kaizen and drawing on the Asian growth experience is our intellectual contribution to Ethiopia’s economic growth,” Kimiaki says.