4.16 Introducing Kaizen to All-Weather The three managers in HR, Caleb, Miguel, and Erin, have received the same e-mail note from the secretary in the department: Doug wants to see you for a meeting at 11 AM in the small conference room. Doug has asked that you bring your deputies along. The small conference room has enough space for about a dozen people, a projection screen, and a flip chart. Caleb and Tanner, Miguel and Linda, and Erin and Rudy are sitting in pairs around the mahogany table in the room. Kioni has found a chair near the door, behind Erin and Rudy, to get a better view of the screen should there be a presentation. Doug begins by asking if anyone knows what the term Kaizen means. “Of course,” Rudy says. “It must be some kind of Buddhist Zen. Are we opening offices in East Asia now?” Everyone except Erin laughs. Doug explains that Kaizen is a Japanese strategy focusing on problem solving through teamwork. “We’re going to practice Kaizen at All-Weather,” Doug says, writing the term on the flip chart. Doug explains that he saw the technique being used effectively at a European door and window manufacturer’s plant in Denmark. “But we hardly know what it is,” Tanner says, glancing around to see if others feel the same way. “I’m inviting two management professors from Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University to offer training workshops on Kaizen, ” Doug says, to a round of applause from his team. “Dr. Tanizaki and Dr. Kawabata, they’re two of the best experts on the subject,” Doug goes on to say, pronouncing the names of the professors slowly and then writing them on the flip chart. “Doug, can you give us an example of how Kaizen might help?” Linda asks, prompting a chorus from the gathered group of her given nickname, “The Practical One.” “Sure, Linda,” Doug says. “Let’s look at some problems that our products face. Take weatherstrips on doors, for example. Using Kaizen, a team consisting of personnel from marketing, manufacturing, and procurement may find a material or a design that is more successful in preventing water or air leakage due to damaged weatherstripping,” Doug says, pausing to see if there is a follow-up question from Linda. “Another example is vinyl claddings on windows. How do we prevent or minimize their discoloration? Again, the problem will probably require a team from manufacturing, marketing, and procurement working together. Not only can Kaizen help us with end-product design, it can also help us eliminate wasteful elements in a production process, a financial report, or a sales report. There are many such small but potentially important improvements that Kaizen might help us achieve.” Linda is more than satisfied with Doug’s answer. She admires Doug’s ability to listen to a question from a junior employee and answer it as fully as he can. “Do we introduce Kaizen in the entire company at once or start with a few departments?” Tanner asks. Caleb looks at him approvingly. “What do you all think?” Doug says. “I think we go ahead and introduce it in every department at the headquarters. After all, once we introduce the concept, our role will be limited to giving support,” Caleb says, giving a wink to Miguel who smiles in return. “I agree,” Erin says. “Once there’s a discussion here in the headquarters, we’ll know how to promote it to plants and field offices.” Erin pictures herself taking a plane to Tokyo. She has long wanted to experience onsen, Japanese hot spring baths. “Also, by not promoting it in headquarters, plants, and field offices at the same time, we may not have to put out too many fires at once,” Miguel says, using a metaphor for troubleshooting with which the HR Department is all too familiar. “I agree with you all. My question then is, how do we begin? ” Doug asks, sitting down on his chair at last. “Give a presentation? Send a memo, an e-mail, what?” “I think a memo signed by you will be the best,” Caleb says, looking at Erin and Miguel, who seem to concur. “Go ahead and draft a memo, Caleb,” Doug says, standing up. Everyone except Doug stays behind in the room to help Caleb draft the memo, which will be addressed to All-Weather’s president, VPs (Marketing, Manufacturing, Finance, Exports, Procurement, IT), and managers based in the company headquarters and plants. Kioni follows Doug out so he can give her some reading material on Kaizen that the group can use in drafting the memo. Based on the information given above and your reading of Chapter 4, complete the following questions and tasks: • How does teamwork help organizations? Support your answer with examples from actual organizations you may have worked in or are working in. What communication challenges does teamwork pose? How might one prepare for these challenges in a business communication course? • In what ways is teamwork connected to other current trends in business and administrative communication that the chapter discusses? For example, video conferencing connects teamwork with technology, diversity, and globalization. Find other examples where current trends in business and administrative communication seem to converge. • Conduct some Internet or library research on the concept of Kaizen. How does this technique help business and other types of organizations? What communication challenges and opportunities does the technique create? • Help Caleb and the group draft the memo for Doug. Some questions to consider: How will you address its multiple audiences, which include the president, VPs (Marketing, Manufacturing, Finance, Exports, Procurement, IT), and managers based in the company headquarters and plants? What should be the primary purpose of the memo? The secondary purpose? What type of and how much information on Kaizen should be included in the memo?