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While social media is slowly earning a place inside companies, they still have none or very little impact on the rigid business processes of the enterprise. A major cultural change, along with deep redesign of corporate governance and internal working, are needed. Ironically, the seeds which might nurture the organic development and integration of networks and social tools were present in the model Philip Crosby took when he wrote Quality is Free in 1979, setting the basis for most of present processes: the Japanese concept of Kaizen.
Back in the eighties, when the principles of a quality managed enterprise emerged, US companies were outperformed by Japanese ones, whether in creativity, innovation or quality. Learning from the Japanese approach to management seemed the best way to revamp Western companies, and the Total Quality Management system took every sector of the economy by storm. These revolutionary principles soon turned into processes and certifications, with the rise of the CMMI model, followed by ISO 9001 series of norms. The modern, predictive and productive enterprise was set up.
A 25 years old misunderstanding
While the principles of constant amelioration are at the heart of the Kaizen concept and philosophy, some crucial aspects were completely left over by occidental theorists, most of them inherent to the Japanese psychology.
Doing the right thing. Honesty and transparency matter, of course, but also the sense of being at the heart of processes and implicitly acting in the right direction. The human factor is what powers the enterprise, not the procedures.
Amelioration through participation, and constant innovation. First time I assisted a meeting in Japan, I was stroke by its apparent ineffectiveness. Everybody was discussing and questioning every point, going through the process again until a consensus emerge. But, most surprising to me at that time (1981), it did emerge each time, or was induced by a manager.
Kaizen is part of Zen. Zen tells us not to focus on results, but on the act of doing. By improving the way you manage a task, you obtain better results.
Valeria Maltoni recently gave insightful advices for bloggers, based on Kaizen principles. Sadly enough, most of the barriers which prevent us to easily adopt Enterprise 2.0 concepts come from a misunderstanding.
Where should we go from now?
Take a look at the above illustrations. It is no rocket science to see they don’t fit. The first one is the picture of a typical business process workflow, while the second illustrates a small network activity. To go any further, we now need to get back at the roots of the quality driven enterprise, and, one step at a time, redesign the processes with the help of social media. By looking back to the implications of Kaizen into enterprise, and how social media organically fits into it, we will correct a 25 years misunderstanding. Kaizen IS Enterprise 2.0.