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Creating a Survival Work Culture

The following is an excerpt of an article originally written by Robert (Doc) Hall and Jinichiro Nakane many years ago but still relevant today.

1. Mentally force yourself into tight spots (something

like a gun to the head concentrates the mind).

2. Think hard; systematically observe reality.

3. Generate ideas; find and implement wise, ingenious, low-cost solutions.

4. Derive personal pleasure from accomplishing kaizen.

5 Develop all peoples’ capabilities to accomplish steps 1-4. Everyone learns kaizen by doing it. Managers and staff learn to support workers, proposing only big-step improvements. They learn not to control self-functioning workers.

  1. Problem Visibility

  2. Kaizen Problems

  3. Look carefully; think hard

  4. Minimize all waste

  5. Gain satisfaction by overall improvements

  6. Develop everyone’s capabilities (mentor them)

  7. Develop flexibility (ability to quickly and easily respond to changes)

  8. Long-term survival

When a company “goes lean,” the tradition of managerial control is easily transferred to process improvement. If staff or specialists generate and implement most of the ideas, worker “empowerment” is generally limited to concurrence. They are not personally and deeply into see-it-yourself, do-it-yourself kaizen.

One sign of this is overly neat or graphically embellished problem-solving records. Workers’ problem solving is typically done by hand on white boards or flip charts. .

Another sign is work layouts fixed for long periods of time, whether on shop floors on in offices. Then implementing a change is a “big project.” If everything is “on wheels,” easily reconnected to utilities, working people can quickly try different ideas.