Building Back a Better World


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought up unprecedented challenges to governments, businesses, and individuals alike. Worldwide responses have seen remarkable cross-industry collaboration, fast and agile innovation and a truthful global social conscience. To leverage COVID-19 as a catalyst for positive change and to build back a better world, Kaizen Institute took action and brought together over 1000 participants from over 70 countries on the virtual global KAIZEN™ fundraising conference. Kaizen Institute raised funds for the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to help support low- and middle-income countries overcome the health and development crisis.

The Build Back Better conference, facilitated by Risa Imai Cox, had a panel of KAIZEN™ and economy experts, such as Art Byrne, Bob Emiliani, Euclides Coimbra and Ola Grytten, which presented valuable insights for the months to come.

Bad Times are the Starting Point for Fresh Growth

Ola Grytten, Professor at NHH in Norway and Special Adviser for Norges Bank, delved into the economic changes that are already taking place and their probable outcome over the next year.

The current situation for 2020 presents a harsh scenario with 70% of the world’s countries estimated to be in recession and 90% to have negative growth per capita. How is this different from previous crises? Prof. Ola Grytten presents this as a supply crisis, rather than a typical demand crisis. This means that this crisis, adding to banks and governments, also needs the intervention of businesses, focusing on product innovation, on finding new markets and on increasing productivity.

Looking to the future, Prof. Ola Grytten pointed out that those who are proactive in improving product innovation processes, finding new markets, and disrupting management models, will conquer leading positions. He also mentioned that it is expected for the economy to bounce back in 2021 with per capita growth higher than the 2020 contraction and the number of countries with negative growth to be lower than in 2019.

Reshaping the Traditional Organisation to Drive Results

Art Byrne, a Retired CEO of The Wiremold Company, broke the traditional paradigm and led us through the journey of transforming an organisation to achieve breakthrough results.

The first step to a KAIZEN™ transition should be for management to guarantee the right mindset: focusing the attention on removing the waste to shorten Lead Times and earn a competitive advantage, leading from the top with management upfront, hands-on, on the shop floor, participating andAfter guaranteeing the mindset, Art Byrne points out the importance of driving the Lean fundamentals: working to takt time and in one-piece flow, guaranteeing standard work to improve processes and implementing a pull system from client to supplier. These changes will require an improvement in the organisational structure, from functional to value stream organisations. From the speaker’s experience, functional companies have 25%-40% excess people and floor space. The management routines should also shift from Make-the-month and looking backwards to daily management and looking forward.

“Strong companies are the ones that come out of recessions better than they were”

Breaking Free of the Status Quo

Bob Emiliani, a Professor and Author from Central Connecticut State University explained how preconceptions and the consequent cognitive bias are acting as obstacles and preventing organisations from changing. Accepting the status quo is ignoring opportunities, which leads to stagnation and chaos. He goes on to encourage the participants to challenge the status quo and engage in trial and error so they can achieve better results than they had in the past.

He stated that the majority of CEOs ignore KAIZEN™. They may opt for budget-cutting, but this is not an improvement. KAIZEN™ improvements are people-focused, fostering creativity and ingenuity. This may be accomplished by decentralising improvements to those who are doing the work. They will improve the processes and create more time to develop their skills and capabilities, contributing more to the growth of the organisation.

“We cannot lose sight that we are constantly in a competitive environment and only those who improve can succeed.”

Rebuild, Reimagine, Reinvent

Euclides Coimbra, the Managing Partner at Kaizen Institute Western Europe, drove the audience through Rebuild, Reimagine, Reinvent: The KAIZEN™ Strategy for Recovery.

Going back in history, he demonstrated how past crises served as a trigger for change for most companies, and how those who were able to adapt came out stronger. The same is expected to happen this time, with most companies fighting for adaptation and recovery, it is very likely for breakthrough solutions to emerge in terms of product, service, and management models.

Euclides introduced the “Wave Rider” company concept. These are the companies that thrive after a crisis due to their speed in reshaping processes according to changes in the environment. A proactive, people-based continuous improvement system is at the core of every Wave Rider.

To become a Wave Rider company, leaders must start by incorporating the three KAIZEN™ skills into their teams:

  • Agile Daily Management – daily iterative improvements inside teams
  • Value Stream Improvement – disruptive improvements in multidisciplinary teams
  • Breakthrough Improvement – find the 3-5 breakthrough initiatives and manage them

With the support of the three KAIZEN™ skills, Wave Riders work on improving not only in their supply chain and service operations, but also the sales and marketing processes, and the innovation and development frameworks. To secure the right drivers and facilitate implementation, these companies have strong strategy processes supported by an agile organisational structure.

“The survival of the fastest” – the fastest companies who achieve the breakthrough will be the ones to overcome the crisis

The radical disruption brought by the pandemic provides unprecedented opportunities for businesses to reinvent and build back a better, sustainable, and resilient world. The KAIZEN™ principles are guiding organisations through turbulent times to achieve breakthrough results and come out stronger.

Watch the recorded version of the conference to learn more about the pandemic’s impact on our economy and how businesses can react quickly and decisively during and after this crisis to prepare for a vigorous post-crisis system

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