Kaizan and Digital Transformation can co-exist. In fact they must, in order to the fully benefit from Digital Transformation.
But first let us explain what Kaizan is - for those who might wonder. As the diagram below explains, Kaizen involves making small continual improvements. These are repeated, nonstop small incremental improvements. It is an effort that is ongoing and covers all aspects of the business including products, processes, services, and the supply chain. It is a low risk small but continuous trial and error process involving all the employees and is a cultural phenomenon.Toyota of Japan is best known for its adoption and practice of Kaizan.
Digital transformation, as most people would define it involves making large transformative changes in the companies' products, processes and services as well as its interaction with its supply chain and customers. It is resource, and often capital, intensive Source: Moneypedals
and is a higher risk venture that could have considerable impact on a company if it fails. The question is, can the two co-exist? Can you have a culture of continuous improvements through on-going low risk trial and error involving all employees and supported by senior management and at the same time undertake a digital transformation in your company? Can you have workers whittling away on costs while making large cost saving changes through digitization, at the same time?
To answer this question, we need to first look at what is often sighted as the single most binding constraint, the most difficult obstacle, when it comes to implementing digital transformation. You guessed it! Employee resistance. The "NIH" syndrom aka "Not invented here". The fear that there will be winners and losers.
Then we ask the question - what is it about Kaizan that is different as far as employee attitudes are concerned? Why would employees, in their right minds, go about whittling away at costs as they do in Kaizan? Why would you? Is it because of trust? Because the employee feels their views are considered seriously? Their voices are heard? They can take risks without their jobs being threatened?
Kaizan does not work by majic. It needs to be nurtured through building trust and ownership in what an employee does and the knoledge that loyalty is a mutual thing. Is the amswer becoming clearer now? Well, to spell it out, you need a Kaizan like company culture in order to be able to successfully implement digital transformation.The two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed they need to coexist as a culture for digital transformation to truly succeed. Ask Toyota. Their manufacturing lines are almost untouched by human hand. How did they make it work? Toyota-Kaizan.
So yes, not only can Kaizan and digital transformation co-exist, they need to culturally, in order for digital tarnsformation to succeed.