Japan History of Suggestion Schemes 1940s & 1950s. As we have seen earlier, suggestion systems or the “suggestion box” was not new to Japan. However, the (US) suggestion system would turn into something very different, because of when and how it was introduced. Masaaki Imai first alerted the world to the Kaizen Teian proposal system in his book The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success. Here he mentioned that“less well-known is the fact that the suggestion system was brought to Japan by the US Air Force and the TWI “Training With Industry program”. One of those who went to Japan was Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a Statistician by profession. Dr. Deming formed many of his theories during WWII when he taught industries how to use statistical methods to improve quality of military production. And another thing he also taught was the suggestion system.
Training Within Industry (TWI)
The introduction of TWI (Training Within Industry) had a major effect in expanding the suggestion system to involve all workers rather than (as earlier described) only a handful of the elite. Job modification constituted a part of TWI and as foremen and supervisors taught workers how to perform job modification, they learned how to make changes and suggestions. Also Japanese executives who traveled to the United States after the war were impressed by the US suggestion system. Many Japanese companies introduced suggestion systems to follow up on the job modification movement begun by the TWI. This occurred at Toshiba in 1946, at Matsushita Electric in 1950, and at Toyota in 1951. Many other companies began suggestion systems during the 1950s.
Blossoming Suggestion Systems
The Japanese media reported on the “blossoming suggestion systems” and suggestion boxes were set up in many offices during the 1950s. Although the suggestion system was pushed vigorously, it was still a direct copy of the Western suggestion system. A major problem in those days was getting workers to write their first suggestions. Even though individual workers were often very talented, the workers as a group were hesitant and did not respond well to campaigns and promotional programs set up by management or by the suggestion system office. Moreover, it was difficult for a worker to write a suggestion and receive a reward when all the other workers considered suggestion writing a burden and were not doing it. In the West, where individualism is the rule, making suggestions and receiving rewards were not a problem. There was no stigma attached to selling your idea to your company. This was not the case in Japan, which is traditionally more group-oriented.
2016 Update – Kaizen Implementation in Western Countries.
Kaizen is a hot topic in Japanese management studies over the past few decades. Many studies have been
conducted to examine the transferability of Kaizen from Japan to other countries such as US or to the European Union (EU). Those studies suggest that the results of the implementation of Japanese Kaizen practices in oversea plants depend on cultural and social context. Essentially, some scholars suggest that Kaizen practices are embedded in Japanese culture and hence difficult to transfer to another culture. Others suggested that only the rational aspects of Kaizen practices were transferable overseas. Recent studies show that Kaizen approaches were not easily adopted in abroad due to such environmental factors as the differences in national culture and working ethics. Along with national culture aspects, scholars argue that the adoption of Kaizen highly depends on some specific organizational culture.