Reflections on KAIZEN LEAN Tour Japan (by Augusto Goncalves, KI Portugal)

Masaaki Imai, José Pires and Augusto Goncalves

This year I attended the final of the KAIZEN LEAN Tour in Japan. Although it was my first experience of the tour, it was my third visit to Japan. I have visited Japan many times with good reason; not only is my job connected with Japan and more specifically Toyota, but I personally find Japan as a country both interesting and curious.

Many companies, when considering or beginning their Lean Kaizen journey, question whether it is possible to achieve success in a different country other than Japan. Many people are of the opinion that Japanese people are different; and personally, I have to agree!

When one visits Japan, the culture one can feel quite alien, albeit in a good way. It’s the respect that people have for one another, the organization and civility in which their society thrives, the care and love with which they tend their gardens are all fascinating to observe. Japanese people take immense pride in their role in society, and aim to accomplish their job to the highest possible standard; whether they are a doctor, waitresses or garbage collectors.

It is this culture of commitment, engagement and continuous improvement which they apply in their companies: in a structured, step by step manner, resulting in World Class organizations.

Toyota is the best example of this Kaizen culture. Since the 1950’s they have shown the world what can be achieved. The first non-Toyota application of the Kaizen culture in Western companies occurred in the 80’s and 90’s. This proved that it was possible to successfully embrace these methodologies, without being Japanese; Porsche and Bosch are good examples.

The KAIZEN LEAN Tour Japan is an incredible opportunity to observe and understand Toyota and to visit a variety of many other companies from different sectors (Manufacturing, Services, Healthcare, ...) Moreover, it is an opportunity to experience Kaizen being implemented in everyday life; in the restaurants, in the streets, in the gardens, in the companies!

So all in all, I recommend the KAIZEN LEAN Tour Japan to anyone as it is an invaluable experience!

Greetings from Portugal – Augusto Gonçalves


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