"Kaizen" ("improvement" in Japanese) is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvements throughout all one's life. Japanese companies have applied this philosophy to the workplace, where they continually search for improvements in all aspects of their business practices. The emphasis is on small continuous changes with monitoring feedback and adjustments as opposed to large-scale overhauls.
Up until recently, most of these improvements have focused on manufacturing and related processes. However, they might well be ready to move into the marketing and advertising area, and American marketers should take note. Toyota just announced that it is creating two internal marketing companies to start focusing on both its Japanese and worldwide advertising efforts. Their goal is not just to save money by bringing advertising and PR functions in-house; rather, they want the kaizen culture imbued in their entire marketing efforts, and they believe they can better do this in-house.
This might be a preface to bringing in-house their more than $1 billion advertising budget. If they are successful and this becomes a trend, Madison Avenue might have more problems than it already thinks it has. But moreover, it's a valid wake-up call to the entire industry. Although there are many aspects to marketing that are hard to quantify because they are creative in nature, there are also many aspects that are quantifiable and ripe for improvement. Who among us can assuredly say that none of our project lifecycles could not have been completed more quickly with fewer change cycles? Who can say that no mistakes have ever gotten through the cracks? And who currently has in place mechansims to track things like this as well as processes to continually improve them?
Those of us who do not might well find our businesses suffering or even dying. On the other hand, those of us who embrace these ideas might well have new opportunities that we had not realized were available to us. At Domus, we have spent the last few years working on improving what we already considered a lean, effective organization. But we can't - and won't - rest from this process. Please click on our web site to find out more about us.