Submitted by Jeff Buster on Tue, 01/30/2007 - 20:46.


Kaizen is the name of the book and the name of the manufacturing philosophy developed by Masaaki Imai of Japan.   Kaizen, the manufacturing philosophy,  is known by names such as “lean” manufacturing and “just in time” manufacturing but only when you read the tenants of the philosophy is its simplicity recognized as its genius. 


One of the tenants, as I read it, is that to understand a problem in a manufacturing process, the manager must physically go to where the problem is.  For example, if a cutting tool is problematically breaking on a lathe, or dulling too quickly, the manager must go on to the floor of the shop where the lathe is operating, and view and work with the lathe problem first hand.  If the problem is in another city, or in another country, the manager must travel there to engage the problem up close and personal. 


When I read this directive it struck me as very similar to Joseph Bronowski’s statement in The Ascent of Man  that “the hand drives the mind”.   I interpret the “hand drives the mind” to mean that one of the best ways to get good ideas is to just go out and do the task that you aren’t sure how to do…as soon as you start digging your mind begins to think of other ways to do the task which are more efficient, produce better looking results, etc.   For example, you can think about how you will change the flat tire on your car, but you will never think of all the steps necessary just sitting in your chair.  If you just go out in the driveway, and begin the task, you will discover steps which you didn’t realize where necessary, and if you change the tire several times you will improve your performance much more rapidly than if you sat inside in your chair and attempted to intellectualize improvements. 


Kaizen is the same.   By physically going to the location where the challenge is, your “hands will drive your mind”. 


The Cleveland Foundation’s Ron Richard is advocating installing wind turbines on Lake Erie as a first step for NEO to enter the wind business.  I encourage Mr. Richard and Mr. Stuebi to go to wind farms – the one in the photo above is just west of Palm Springs - and become experienced first hand with the problems of on shore and off shore installations.  

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diff btwn kaizen and experiential learning?


interesting post.  not sure how kaizen is different from experiential learning and also unclear as to why visting a location is somehow better than just doing it.  wouldn't one learn more by just doing it as opposed to going to a site to have a looksee??

it is also worth noting Einstein's method of solving complex problems through visualization, that is visualizing the workings of a complex system in one's mind in order to understand possible malfunctions, etc.


Hello John,  Responding to your question of why it is important to go have a look see, instead of “just doing it”:   What the Cleveland Foundation is advocating (installing ten wind turbines in Lake Erie without any regional experience in building or operating turbines) is the same thing as attempting to walk across Niagara Falls  for your first tight rope act.  Now if Mr. Richard wants to tight rope, what I am hoping he will do first is go and watch a show at Barnum and Bailey.   What Mr. Richard will see is that they use safety nets, that the acrobats train and train and train, starting with simpler feats and only attempting the spectacular when mature, and that there is a supporting infrastructure of trainers, technicians, sales personnel etc. in place before the greatest show on earth goes public. 


What Mr. Richard will also discover is that if the wind turbines are not built in NEO, very little employment benefit will inure to NEO.   Once they are installed, they don’t need a lot of care. I haven’t heard Mr. Richard describe how we are going to build the turbines in NEO, and I believe the manufacturing of turbines is the critical piece.   Rather than concerning himself with installing turbines in Lake Erie, it would be more advisable to seek out an experienced manufacturing partner for an entire turbine, or for some of its components.  The Friday paychecks which will be delivered by manufacturing is what Cleveland needs more than the purported “image upgrade” water based turbines supposedly will provide years from now.


And yes, Kaizen is another discussion of “experiential learning”.   Physicist and mathematician Einstein had to visualize – the equipment required to see sub atomic structures wasn’t yet available.  But my Kaizen point I believe is supported by Watson (of DNA discoverers Watson and Crick ).   In 1951Watson went to a lecture given by x-ray photography expert Rosalind Franklin. At the lecture Franklin discussed her photographic DNA images.   This lecture instigated Watson and Crick to view DNA as helixes and led to their fame (but not Franklin’s; incidentally, I took a DNA course in the late 60’s from Prof. Watson, and to my best recollection I don’t remember Prof. Watson ever mentioning or giving credit to Ms. Franklin for her X-ray photography which was clearly Ms. Franklin’s due) .   Was this merely a “serendipitous networking connection”?   Or was it a result of Kaizen – going to the physical location (Ms. Franklin’s lab/lecture) where the problem is..

Jeff is the Kaizen manager for wind in NEO

Really excellent perspectives. Regarding the proposal put forth by Ronn Richard that NEO will drive energy policy nationwide and invest in off shore wind and many other innovative initiatives to become a world leader in all aspects of the wind and advanced energy industries, I applaud the huge aspirations and fully support doing all of that and investing $100s million to do it. But what I hear Jeff and others saying is that the vision doesn't look broadly enough, and is not grounded in reality. We are getting too focused and rah rah over one piece of the wind opportunity - off shore wind - and see that offering opportunity in manufacturing. What Jeff has been posting about for years is the many places and ways where wind has already been proved to add value, and how those ways should be implemented in NEO. Examples have included consumer-level wind, small scale wind on buildings, and wind on land, including along RTA. Also, Jeff has pointed out that while it is great the foundations are investing in their plans, there may be opportunity to accelerate investment in wind here by simply agreeing we will have wind off-shore and then issuing RFPs world-wide to attract a major global wind developer to build a wind farm out there. If there is enough wind for anyone to justify investment in wind out there, there is enough wind for the private sector. I see Jeff as the Kaizen manager for wind for NEO, who is out in the field doing site research and really testing all the boundaries of wind. Now he needs to be part of the high level dialogs, and valued and compensated for his role. Who agrees?

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