Yokoten is a very interesting management concept that has originated in Japan. It is a very important part of kaizen or a system of continuous improvement. The meaning of this term is ‘horizontal deployment’ but it can also be termed as ‘copy and improve’. What this refers to is the use of successful ideas in various areas of the company where they will be a good match. If Kaizen has resulted in a successful way of working in a particular area then the various things that have been learned from it should be used in other areas. Simply put, the company will save a great deal of time and effort by avoiding reinventing the wheel.
There is more to Yokoten than simply lifting a business process or a manufacturing process or even a design idea. A company that tries to use this tool without understanding it fully will not be able to get the desired results. How this concept works best is by:
– Ensuring that there is an atmosphere of openness in the organization whereby information regarding success and failure of particular processes is shared freely within different departments.
– Ideas should ideally spread horizontally by people seeing things for themselves. This tool does not have a top-down approach. However, seniors in an organization do have to point out various Kaizen ideas that employees will benefit from observing.
– The company should standardize all work processes so that solutions can easily be deployed when necessary.
– If a particular department cannot copy a specific best practice process then the thought process behind that particular successful practice should at least be used.
– Successful solutions should be adapted and improved in order to make them suitable for different work processes. Simply lifting ideas and processes doesn’t always work.
An organization that uses Kaizen to achieve and maintain high standards of quality and customer satisfaction will always give due importance to Yokoten; Kaizen is not considered to be complete until standards that are set are also offered to others so that they too can improve themselves.
Competition within departments is sometimes a big obstacle to the implementation of Yokoten. Companies sometimes put incentives in place to increase productivity and a team might therefore be unwilling to share its best practices because it doesn’t want to lose the incentive. This problem has to be addressed carefully so that employees develop a high degree of company and customer consciousness.
Bottom Line: Yokoten is a useful management tool to improve quality and productivity. Find out how to use it correctly.