Kamikaze kaizen: Civil servants must do or die

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

THE Sunday school teacher turned to eight-year old Tommy and asked him: “Tommy, if you had a big apple and little apple, which one would you give to your brother?” Tommy thought for a moment and asked: “Do you mean my big brother or my little brother?”

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This little story is about a lesson in sharing and an appropriate theme for the yuletide season, especially for kids in Tacloban, many of which remain to be the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). There are many easy and inexpensive ways as shown in the past weeks by well-meaning people, including the warm gesture of spoiled brat and an alleged singer Justin Bieber.

So how would you teach sharing to adults? If you want to understand the need for sharing, don’t just stand there. Look at where things stand today and ask another question: How could I help with my own little resources?

For those of us in the quality movement who follow the exploits of Toyota, some of us may have been inspired by the New York Times July 26, 2013 article with the thought-provoking title: “In Lieu of Money, Toyota Donates Efficiency to New York Charity.”

Author Mona El-naggar writes: “The Food Bank for New York City is the country’s largest anti-hunger charity, feeding about 1.5 million people every year. It leans heavily, as other charities do, on the generosity of businesses, including Target, Bank of America, Delta Air Lines and the New York Yankees.

“Toyota was also a donor. But then Toyota had a different idea. Instead of a check, it offered Kaizen. A Japanese word meaning ‘continuous improvement,’ kaizen is a main ingredient in Toyota’s business model and a key to its success, the company says. It is an effort to optimize flow and quality by constantly searching for ways to streamline and enhance performance. Put more simply, it is about thinking outside of the box and making small changes to generate big results.”

“Toyota’s emphasis on efficiency proved transformative for the Food Bank. At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.”

That’s it. Rewind please. “[A] dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.” That’s a good idea! Can we ask Toyota Philippines do the same thing for the victims? A news report tells us that the local Toyota unit has committed to donate P10million to the victims. That’s a lot of money when compared to other organizations of similar size.

But I can’t help to ask another question: “Isn’t more valuable than money if Toyota shares its expertise to the Department of Social and Welfare and Development and similar entities so that they too can improve efficiency?” It’s just too frustrating for us to hear complaints about delays in the distribution of relief goods.

The call for the application of kaizen has been my first reply if you’re like me who has a keen eye on efficiency problems. In fact, we can even talk about kamikaze kaizen, if necessary to make things move faster in the bureaucracy.

I mean, kamikaze kaizen is best applied if we kick sleepy heads out of its body. Let’s scrape the cranium of those government officials who continue to use archaic rules to justify their slowness in an emergency situation: “Write me a letter so that the national government can come in quick.” Mar Roxas, is that you?

Really, it is a devastating thing to hear. The plea of typhoon victims have been answered by continued dejection because government officials can always make it appear that they’re coming in to the rescue with the idea that beggars can wait. Life must go on with our stupid leaders.

Now we know. The speed of exit of a civil servant is directly proportional to the quality of his service.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant with special interest in human resources and total quality management. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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