Chapter 2

The Story of Continual Improvement

Improving products, processes, and services to make them better for customers is a very old practice. Let’s go back to the Kongo Gumi example and its origins in 578 AD. At that time, in Japan, businesses were handed from father to son. Sustaining a business was predicated on the birth of boys. However, in the 1930s, Kongo Gumi, a very successful construction company, found itself without male heirs (O’Hara, 2004). Rather than closing the company, they chose to be innovative. It is reported that Kong Gumi used the very unconventional practice of adopting the husbands of daughters as sons, and thus, sustain the line of heirs and therefore the continuity of the company. The point is that sustainable ...

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