Global Environmental Standards and Kaizen

Although the ISO 14000 series have no formal relationship with ISO 9000 series of standards, both the series are structured very much alike. The guiding intention behind ISO 14000 is to bring about global environmental consideration in all industrial and business activities, transcending narrow national or regional considerations. Since the environmental effects are global and, therefore there are several transnational issues, it is felt that in this globalized world of trade, corporates should encounter a single/uniform environmental management system anywhere it would like to operate. The ISO 14000 certification is voluntary, just like ISO 9000, but it is likely to become an essential prerequisite for carrying out trade around the world.


Kaizen meaning ‘continuous or ongoing improvement’ in Japanese is an inseparable aspect of the management of quality. There is an old saying in Japanese, which is very apt: If a man has not been seen for three days, his friends should take a good look at him to see changes have befallen him. Such is the Japanese belief in unending improvement.

In fact, continuous improvement is required in all activities of the organization, be it productivity improvement or new product development or labor management relations or total productive maintenance (TPM) or Just-In-Time production and delivery system, or customer orientation. All directly and indirectly productive or productivity generating activities of the organization come under the umbrella of Kaizen.


a) Customer orientation
b) Total quality control
c) Quality circles
d) Suggestion system
e) Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)
f) Productivity improvement
g) New product development
h) Labor management relations
i) Zero defects
j) Just-in-time system

Kaizen has to basically do with small, step-by-step continuous improvements. While innovations or drastic improvements (mainly as a result of a large investment in new technology and/or equipment) are welcome for improving the function of the organization in terms of market reach, productivity and profitability, such innovation only happen once in a while and somewhat unpredictably. And continuous improvements are more realizable, predictable, controllable and acceptable. Various behavioral, cultural and philosophical changes are better brought about small step-by-step improvements than through radical changes.

Kaizen philosophy believes that people at all levels, including the lowermost levels in the organizational hierarchy, can contribute to improvement. This is possible because Kaizen asks for only small improvements.

Existence of Kaizen does not belittle the importance and necessity of innovations. Innovations should be supplemented by continuous improvement, so that the benefits of the innovation keep increasing over time instead of decreasing their due to constantly changing environment.

The worst organizations are those that do nothing but maintenance. These organizations have no internal drive for either Kaizen or for innovation. Change is forced on management by the market conditions and competition and the management is unaware where it wants to go. Unfortunately many of the Indian companies fall in this category. And then, they cry hoarse against liberalizing the Indian economy, against more global participation and for a more ‘level field’ for the Indian organizations of their ilk.

Quality in products/services comes through:

1. Physical standards….. quantifiable standards
2. System standards ….. methodology oriented
3. Behavioral standards ….. ways of interacting
4. Philosophical standards … ways of thinking or attitudes and motivational aspects

Kaizen has to do with the philosophy of, or strong commitment to continuous improvement. Without a philosophical basis, improvements can diminish and disappear over time; they not even materialize.

Contribution of Deming:

W Edwards Deming, an American quality expert, became a Parama-guru (Guru par excellence) in Japan because he preached the philosophical basis of quality and productivity which were accepted, absorbed and implemented with sustained positive results by the Japanese. The highest award in the Japanese industrial circles is the Deming prize for quality.

Referring to the Process Control charts, Deming pointed out that the removal of a special cause (assignable cause) of variation, although, does not really amount to the improvement of the process. It only brings the system back to where it should have been in the first place. The important problems of improvement commence you achieve statistical control. One of the aims of continuous improvements should be to shrink the spread between the control limits, that is, to minimize the variations. This concept is similar to Taguchi philosophy. Perhaps it was the precursor to the latter. The whole effort is to improve the process capability and, more generally, the system or organizational capability. This requires that experiments be designed and performed in order to highlight areas for continuous improvement.