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Management heads into the next decade.

JAPANESE COMPANIES ARE GOOD AT manufacturing. Just ask any domestic producers of automobiles, copiers, or personal electronics what happened in the 1980s. Chances are they will explain how the Japanese captured an impressive share of the market by creating world-class standards in design, materials, and workmanship. Yet what is often overlooked in the effort to understand the success of Japanese industry is how it excels at the services that support the manufacturing process.

Most Japanese manufacturing companies view the making of a product as continuous--from design, manufacture, and distribution to sales and customer service. The system begins with a clear understanding of the customer's needs and preferences and ends with the customer's satisfaction.

For many Japanese companies, the heart of this process is the Kanban, a Japanese term for visual record, which directly or indirectly drives much of the manufacturing organization. It was originally developed at Toyota in the 1950s as a way of managing material flow on the assembly line.

The Kanban, however, has grown into a manufacturing philosophy complete with its own value system, social codes, and well-defined rules. The secret of the Kanban's success is its requirement that each part of an organization be totally interdependent. This integration translates into high efficiency and quality products.

Over the past three decades the dichotomy of the Kanban--a highly efficient and effective factory production system and an almost romantic organizational philosophy--has developed into an optimum manufacturing environment. Distilled from this world-class manufacturing process are five powerful lessons that the security manager can use to improve the quality of the service of his or her department.

Strive for Kaizen. Kaizen is the Japanese term for continuous improvement. It is both a rigorous, scientific method using statistical quality control (SQC) and an adaptive framework of organizational values and beliefs that keep workers and management alike focused on zero defects.

The Kaizen cycle has four steps. The first is represented by a plan to change whatever needs to be improved. The second step involves carrying out those changes on a small scale. The third step is to observe the results, and the last step is to evaluate both the results and the process and determine what has been learned.

The Kaizen cycle is also the philosophy of never being satisfied with what was accomplished last week or last year. Kaizen is a shift in perception that makes no allowances for tight budgets, staffing shortages, or lack of state-of-the-art equipment. Obstacles will always block the path; Kaizen is the art of finding the path around those obstacles.

Pragmatic patience. Providing outstanding security service is a function of many factors. It is more than well-trained security officers, appropriate post orders, and good leaders. Developing a world-class security program requires pragmatic impatience with problems, such as inefficiency and redundancy, and patience with long-term objectives, such as departmental training and development.

The security manager who can make these types of distinctions and exercise pragmatic patience in implementing operational policies and procedural adjustments will be well suited to the change, turbulence, and uncertainty that companies will face in the next decade.

Focus on the individual. Contrary to popular thought, the Kanban places great emphasis on the individual. Workers frequently have a great deal of input about the product they manufacture, and most companies using the Kanban provide lifetime employment.

The people who work in a factory using the Kanban may be a part of the manufacturing process, but they are a very important part. Management and workers believe that productivity and quality comes from people rather than systems.

Leadership. Many people who know only a little about the Kanban assume it is a process where management controls almost everything and leadership has been outmoded. The Kanban, however, is run by workers who make a large percentage of the decisions traditionally made by supervisors and quality control inspectors.

Good management controls complexity while effective leadership produces meaningful change. In the Kanban leadership, management and workers combine to produce exceptional results. If the quality revolution of the 1980s taught us anything, it is that the people producing the product or supplying the service are often in the best position to make positive changes. The best leaders are those who know how to listen, manage, and lead.

Understanding change. In Japanese manufacturing plants change is respected as an evolutionary progression. In many US factories change is disliked and feared. These differing views say much about the way Japanese and American manufacturers think about quality.

Traditional companies believe quality is costly, defects are caused by workers, and the minimum level of quality that can satisfy the customer is enough. Companies practicing the Kanban believe quality leads to lower costs, that systems cause most defects, and that quality can always be improved.

Whether a company produces goods or provides a service, one issue is clear. The future belongs to those who can embrace change as a positive variable within the complex matrix of strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities of doing business in the 1990s.

The Kanban has much to teach us about service. Its lessons are especially valuable now because the ability to supply quality service is considered fundamental to success or failure for more and more security programs.

The days when cost was the prime factor in making security choices are over. Economics has forced everyone to be price competitive. The choices are now between those who know how to provide high-quality security service and everyone else.

Lloyd S. Morris is the assistant director of safety, security, and parking for The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, NC.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Japanese management style
Author:Morris, Lloyd S.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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