Written By: Debbie Jung
Here at Mercury, all of our employees gather once every two weeks to align on goals, share success stories, and inspire one another. During one of our bi-weekly all-hands meetings, our CEO, Josh Medow, introduced the concept of Kaizen culture. Kaizen, derived from Japanese roots "kai" (change) and "zen" (good), emphasizes small but beneficial incremental changes. This culture highlights the power of these small, incremental changes in driving improvements across various aspects of an organization and empowers employees to make fact-based decisions, even down to the smallest details. At Mercury, we wholeheartedly embrace the Kaizen culture of continuous improvement, and it has fundamentally transformed the way we operate today. It has become a cornerstone of our success.
The Kaizen culture has a long history deeply rooted in quality management that has proven effective for centuries in Japanese craftsmanship. To put it simply, "Kaizen is nothing more than a system of continuous improvement encompassing quality, technology, processes, company culture, productivity, safety, and leadership." *
At Mercury, we have imbibed this culture deeply into our operations, guided by one of our core values: Relentless Improvement. Our employees recognize that the essence of Kaizen lies in embracing change with an open mind, a desire for insight, and a commitment to learning from trial and error.
Kaizen is about continuously improving each day to bring about significant enhancements in efficiency and quality over time. Prioritizing incremental improvements instead of radical changes ensures that the improvements are sustainable and cause less disruption to the workflow. This culture places a strong emphasis on evidence-based decision-making, which yields results that demand reflection from leaders and may even challenge deeply held beliefs. A company that embraces a Kaizen culture values its people and fosters trust with a shared commitment to working toward a common goal.
Toyota stands as one of the foremost leaders in the automotive industry, earning widespread acclaim for its unwavering commitment to the Kaizen culture of relentless improvement, deeply embedded as a regular cadence within its management system. This steadfast dedication to continuous progress has firmly established Toyota as a formidable competitor in the automotive sector, consistently achieving sustained superior performance (Miller, 2014).
While this approach has been successful for Toyota over decades, it's important to note that not every company adopting Kaizen will achieve the same level of success. To genuinely embrace this transformative culture, one must recognize the pivotal role of underlying beliefs and a robust value foundation. Blindly emulating Toyota's practices without comprehending these fundamental principles will not yield genuine improvements.
With an open mind, a thirst for insight, and a commitment to learning from trial and error, you can organically integrate the Kaizen culture into your organization, ensuring its enduring success.
In logistics, every second holds significant value, and employees tirelessly endeavor to discover ways to optimize processes, reduce costs, and, most importantly, enhance productivity. At Mercury, we were introduced to the Kaizen culture in connection with our core value of relentless improvement. This concept deeply resonated with our team, as we were already embodying it in our daily activities. Recognizing the potential for incremental changes, we wholeheartedly embraced the Kaizen culture across our organization, from our logistics guides to our executive suite.
As we implemented Kaizen, we quickly realized that it wasn't just a set of methodologies or tools; it represented a profound shift in mindset. Our employees transformed into proactive problem-solvers, adept at identifying bottlenecks and implementing effective solutions. This culture empowered them to take ownership of their work, fostering a profound sense of pride and dedication to delivering exceptional results. The concept is highly esteemed in many companies for its capacity to drive productivity and efficiency. We were all in agreement when it came to implementing this culture, placing strong emphasis on the power of making fact-based decisions.
The concept of Kaizen commands respect across numerous companies for its ability to drive productivity and efficiency. However, many companies exhibit reluctance to alter systems that may already be functional, opting for what's merely "good enough." Herein lies the challenge: "How can companies embrace change in a manner that makes it a natural habit, rather than viewing it as a necessary evil reserved for times of crisis?" (Gupta, 2020).
Companies that wholeheartedly adopt the Kaizen culture gain a significant competitive advantage, positioning themselves as trailblazers in their respective industries. By ingraining continuous improvement into their daily operations, both employees and the organization at large become more agile, flexible, and responsive to the ever-evolving demands of the business, rather than fixating on competitors.
At Mercury, our primary focus is on time- and temperature-sensitive logistics, aiming to simplify and centralize solutions for our clients. In an industry where new regulations continually emerge, our employees are already adept at adapting to this ever-changing landscape. Implementing the Kaizen culture was a smoother transition for us compared to other companies, primarily because we already had a core value aligned with this process. We recognize that our agility sets us apart from competitors, as we are dedicated to evolving and tailoring our services for the benefit of our clients and our team.
We encourage companies, regardless of their size, to contemplate the advantages of embracing the Kaizen culture. The key doesn't lie in blindly replicating Toyota's practices but in comprehending and adapting the core philosophies to meet the unique needs and challenges of each organization. By doing so, your company can pave the way for sustained growth and prosperity.
As we navigate the intricacies of the time- and temperature-sensitive shipping industry, we remain unwavering in our commitment to the Kaizen culture, knowing that true success hinges on our ability to adapt, learn, and improve each day. It's essential to remember that the essence of Kaizen lies not only in the pursuit of change but in nurturing a culture that wholeheartedly embraces and thrives on continuous improvement. By doing so, your company can chart a course towards enduring growth, prosperity, and continued success within the industry.
S. M. and Anshul Gupta (2020) “KAIZEN CULTURE: ENABLING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE”, Global Journal of Enterprise Information System, 2(2), pp. 58-67. Available at: https://gjeis.com/index.php/GJEIS/article/view/177 (Accessed: 1 August 2023) *
Miller, Jon, Mike Wroblewski, and Jaime Villafuerte. 2014. Creating a Kaizen Culture: Align the Organization, Achieve Breakthrough Results, and Sustain the Gains. 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education. https://www.accessengineeringlibrary.com/content/book/9780071826853 **