How do we improve on what we already do well?

For my final class at Fuller, I am studying leadership. Naturally, one of the books we are reading is by Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory. In his book, Managing the Non-Profit Organization, he has this to say about the Japanese perspective on strategies for improvement.

In this county, in particular, we usually underplay the strategy of doing better what we already do well. This hit me the first time I went to Japan, when they were just beginning their meteoritic rise. I looked for innovation strategies and there weren’t any. But every place – whether university, business, or government agency – had a clear strategy for improving. They don’t talk innovation. They ask, How do we do better, what we are already doing? It may be something very mundane, like sweeping the floor. Or it may be a very major change. The focus is always on improving the product, improving the process, improving the way we work, the way we train. And you need a continuing strategy for doing so. (p. 60)

I have heard this kind of thing said about other Southeast Asian countries as well, and I think it is very true. I think it represents a virtue we do not appreciate enough in the West, a mandate to be perpetually improving.

Additionally I think it coincides well with a Christian perspective on work and vocation. If we are/should be, doing all we do to the glory of God, we would never want to short change our Creator. If we could possibly do it better, we should want to, not that I do, but we should.

And if worshiping our Creator wasn’t enough of a reason, the quality of Japanese cars for instance, should be a motivating factor. Perpetual improvement is a winning business and non-profit strategy. We can be fairly certain that when a Japanese vehicle assembly line worker sees something wrong, even if it isn’t in his area of responsibility, he sees to it that it is fixed, more often than his American counter part. And now that many Japanese firms are building their cars over here, it appears they are successfully transferring those ethos to the new factories state side.


Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov said...

I see your point. The striving to always do better simply for the sake of doing better leads to legalism and crazy stress levels involving shame and guilt. Hence, their suicide rate is ridiculous. I agree that we must continually strive to be that which God has called us to be. At the same time we must rest and be content with who God has already made us to be. This does not mean we get to sin and simply say, "Well, that's just how God made me."

Anonymous said...

One big difference between us and the japanese is they have more control of how much their executives make. there is not such a huge disparity between the workers and management pay wise, this fosters a better team concept than an employee who makes 30k a year and a CEO making 12 mill a year.