We all aspire to changes but are often brought down by the vastness of the idea of a change. But a change doesn’t always have to be a big affair; it can be something very small that inspires others to follow. One of the most important aspects of change that most people overlook is that it must sustain, a change without sustainability is just a fad. To build a better Bangladesh and create a race of optimistic individuals, the government of Bangladesh has adopted one of the most popular approaches of improving service quality in public sector, the approach of Kaizen. It is a completely new approach adapted in the public sector that encourages the respective officers to think differently and creatively solve a problem.
Kaizen is a concept that is derived from two Japanese words, ‘Kai’ and ‘Zen’ which literally translates to ‘Change’ and ‘Better’ respectively. In a way, one could view Kaizen as a personal grooming programme that inspire individuals to make small yet positive and sustainable changes that will help the mass people. Kaizen is a widely popular concept that is being practiced in both developed and developing nations and is recognized as an important pillar for an organization’s long-term competitive strategy.
Kaizen is a practice of continuous improvement. It is a Japanese concept that was originally introduced in the West by Masaaki Imai. It is a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality.
Very recently, in 2007, Kaizen was introduced in Bangladesh by JICA. The first phase started with providing training in Dhamrai, Jaintapur, Meherpur Sadar Upazila, Patharghata, Ramu and Tetulia, 6 Upazilas from 6 different districts. After successful results, another five year full-fledged programme was launched in 2013 to bring all the 64 districts under this programme. Till date, 23 districts are reported to be covered and the rest shall be covered in the coming years.
In the beginning, this project was initiated, funded and implemented by JICA. But after successfully piloting the project, it is now adopted by Ministry of Public Administration (MoPA) and funded by BD government with the technical assistance from JICA. The project is now known as ‘Project for Improving Public Services through Total Quality Management (IPS-TQM)’. However, not all departments go through Kaizen, it is mostly the departments which are actively involved in development of Bangladesh, also known as Nation Building Departments or NBDs. In Bangladesh there are 25 departments that are considered as NBDs which include departments such as agricultural department, food department, women, police, etc.
So what does Kaizen mean in the public sector of Bangladesh?
One of the key concepts of Kaizen is to work smarter and easier by effectively using the resources available. The approaches of Kaizen is mainly administered by Bangladesh Public Administration Training Center (BPATC) in Savar in coordination with five implementing partners: National Institute of Local Government (NILG), National Academy for Educational Management (NAEM) and National Academy for Planning and Development (NAPD) in Dhaka Region, along with Rural Development Academy (RDA) in Bogra and Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) in Comilla. These national organisations work together to disseminate the practices of Kaizen to the public sector officials across the country.
While most of the public sector officials receive their Kaizen training during the mandatory training at BPATC, others receive this training with the help of the abovementioned five implementing partners.
At field level, the trainings are conducted district wise by 5 or 6 members of facilitation or mentoring team from concern implementing agency (BPATC). An introductory district seminar is held which is chaired by the Deputy Commissioner. The participants of the conference are district officers from 25 concerned departments, Sadar Upazila Officers, Upazila Nirbahi Officers, Upazila Chairmen, media representatives and other district administration officers. The facilitation team then individually divides and provides training to the each district officer from their respective Upazilas. During the workshop they are firstly briefed on TQM and Kaizen, which is followed by the next part of their training, a segment called ‘Small Improvement Project’ which is to be implemented within the next 3 months. For that they fill up a Small Improvement Plan format. The reasons this session is called Small Improvement Plan are because, 1) the officers are encouraged to focus on small issues that can be solved and 2) they are given a three month time frame to solve the problem they have identified.
After successfully implementing each plan after every three months, the same facilitation/mentor team goes to the respective concerned district and a Kaizen convention is then held at the local DC conference room, chaired by the local District Commissioner. The convention is held to showcase how the Kaizen project effectively provided solutions for the former issues.
Till date the project has covered 23 districts out of the total 64.
One example of an officer who has adapted Kaizen into his work environment is Mr Tajkir-Uz-Zaman, who was serving as the AC Land of Shibganj in Bogra during the project implementation period. With misguided lower officials and a disorganised filing system, finding a document in a Land Office is probably worse than finding needle in haystack. But Mr Zaman took it upon himself to fix this issue and make the Land office in Shibganj more client-friendly. He used the 5S system taught in Kaizen which is essentially an organising model for the individual and work components. Mr Zaman organised the entire record room in a manner that would let even a novice to find a document within 2-10 minutes. Not just that, since Kaizen is also about ensuring the sustainability of the changes that are introduced, Mr Zaman also launched an office order for the record room to be maintained in this manner for the days to come.
This is just one simple example out of many that are taking place across the nation. Kaizen is introducing ‘One Year One Project’ under which sub-district level officers of the NBDs will be implementing at least one small improvement that will lead to delight the citizens.
To acknowledge the initiatives if the officers who are implementing SIPs across the nation, JICA and MoPA has been organising an annual day, National Kaizen Convention, where the best initiatives are awarded with Role Model Award. Since 2013, eight officers have been awarded for their activities and this year, on January 25, 2016, another eight officers have been awarded for their contribution in 2015 for making the public service sector a little better. 2015’s Role Model awards went to officers from the Health sector, Administration sector, LGED and Civil Defense. Each of these eight cases have demonstrated outstanding motivation and continued efforts by the field-level officers for improvements. Through the Kaizen application and under the nationwide Kaizen initiative, they had changed themselves and made sustainable changes possible.
We interviewed AKM Enamul Haque, Deputy Project Director, on the matter of improving public service through Total Quality Management (IPS-TQM), BPATC. This is what he had to say. “Currently Kaizen training programme is being conducted in 490 Upazilas around the country. The groundwork of kaizen method consists of five founding elements - teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement. Based on the training, participants came up with suggestions from every department of the workplace; from the assembly line to the top officials. Filtering the possibilities of the beneficiaries, expertise allowed the idea to execute.” He added, “Initially the project has been decided to be executed till 2018 phase to phase. Decision of expanding the project duration will be based on the outcome so far will be achieved. Authorities strongly believe that kaizen can contribute towards the progression of business, the working culture and measure all possible metrics to attain the best market result.”