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Continuous Improvement Essay

Like much of Asia, Vietnam has spent the greater part of the last century trying to rebuild and grow after winning independence from France and then reuniting after the Cold War split. While the economic recession impacted much of the world, Asia has shown much more resilience when it comes to recovering from the downturn. Now, Vietnam is trying to capitalize on the resurging economy to become an economic and social pillar in the region.

However, resources in the country are still scarce, which makes growth a challenging prospect. Agile Vietnam, a self-organized nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of economic development in the country, believes a Kaizen transformation will be a necessity to establishing the country as a global player. Using Japan as a model for what can be accomplished, Agile Vietnam asserts that Lean manufacturing practices can help businesses bring greater value to customers while reducing overall costs.

“Through the years, Lean and Kaizen has helped corporate Japan to enhance its business process improvement strategy and operational productivity,” writes Alex Rosales, an organizing committee member for the nonprofit, writes for Agile Vietnam’s blog. “Today, thousands of companies around the world have used Kaizen for greater productivity, speed, quality and profits with minimum effort and time and cost, achieving extraordinary results. There is a lot we can learn from Japan and apply that knowledge in Vietnam.”

Utilizing Kaizen events to drive meaningful change
Agile Vietnam strongly believes that Lean and Kaizen mindsets and practices can be utilized to improve individual companies and the country as a whole. However, the organization asserts that businesses need to adopt a Lean mindset and create Kaizen cultures. To improve Vietnam in its entirety, organizations in the country must first commit to improving themselves.

The first step of this process is learning about Lean and what it means for businesses. Traditional Western business practices – the ones that many Vietnamese organizations abide by – have traditionally thrived on a rational mindset when it comes to operations. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Lean manufacturing practices are different in that they are more preventative and reactive to the ebb and flow of everyday operations. Kaizen companies are always changing and striving for continuous improvement. The ability to be responsive and the mindset of always moving forward enables organizations to succeed, even in a time of economic volatility.

Careful planning and responsive action-taking are crucial to fully embracing a Kaizen work culture. There is a necessary balance between the reactive action and planning ahead. Establishing set practices improves efficiency and creates consistency to everyday operations, but at the same time, businesses need to be responsive by continually improving practices and making the right adjustments to bolster efficiency, productivity and the value of the products or services that they produce.

A business in change
While Agile Vietnam believes Kaizen is critical to the success of local businesses, it’s important for entrepreneurs and company leaders across the world to realize that Lean mindsets and practices aren’t just successful in that particular region.

Regardless of whether organizations are located in North America, Europe, Africa, South America or Asia, Kaizen is a universal approach to operating. However, organizations first need to undergo a Kaizen transformation to help educate employees and make meaningful changes to the way they operate and truly instill a sense of Lean through their work culture.

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