Bad Long-term Effests of Process Standardization

■The concept of process standardization itself is good and right. But in the long term, it surely erodes the basic capability and motivation of Japanese salary-men. Most of Japanese employees have no special skill at all when they start working and spend long time in learning the knowledge which depends on the company’s context through on-the-job training. The only area they can exercise their creativity is to optimize daily operation processes. It is not expertise or standardized knowledge but context-dependent experience that is necessary for optimizing these processes which have been formed according to the company’s restrictions in aspects of human resources and financial resources. If someone succeeded in optimizing and standardizing those processes, the employees are robbed of the only opportunity to exercise their own creativity. This seriously demotivates the employees to follow the standardized processes. If the daily operation processes are standardized by someone, all that the employees can do every day is just to follow the defined processes and fulfill daily obligations. There is no room for process improvement by themselves. Now they are prohibited from improving their own daily processes by themselves. They feel they are denied creativity completely because process optimization is the only element where their own creativity can survive. As a result, they feel they are denied independence. They start depending on someone else’s creativity of optimizing processes and stop thinking. This dependency and automatism deprive Japanese employees of the last moment of voluntary Kaizen activities. It is natural that this situation leads to long-term degradation of operational quality. And the declining quality of daily operations inevitably results in the degradation of product quality. Please watch carefully what will happen regarding the quality of products and services of Japanese companies in the long-term. I can forecast with assurance that the products of some Japanese comapnies in which the operations are radically optimized by external factors will be worsening little by little in their quality. In effect we can already see some examples. The product name “QUALIA” explicitly means it puts stress upon “quality”. We can easily imagine that after a radical optimization of production processes, this company tries to return to the former manufacturing process, i.e. each assembly-person is encouraged to optimize the manufacturing processes by themselves. But now it is very difficult for the company to go back to the autonomous continuous improvement because the workers are already demotivated by the preceding activities for process standardization. We should think again whether we should graft a Western tree’s branch to a Japanese trunk.