YKK Stories

2017-08-21 Issue 11 Fundamental Behavior 10 – Be Process Driven

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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I often share our Fundamental Behaviors wallet card with people I meet. As they scan the list of behaviors, they often say, “Tell me about ‘Be process-driven,'” because it is so different from the other behaviors. Maybe some of you have the same question.

Many organizations say they are “results driven.” As a business, of course our goal is to achieve results, so many of you may be asking why we are focusing instead on the process rather than the results. You may wonder, “As long as the desired results are achieved, why does it matter what method I used?”

I think we can look to our Japanese colleagues, as well as our founder, Tadao Yoshida, for the answer to this question. Japanese manufacturing companies have a long tradition of process management, in which they think of purpose first, set a goal, and then create a logical process to achieve that goal. Along the way, they continuously improve the process, in a methodology called “kaizen.” I’m sure many of you have heard this word used at YKK. Through continuously improving the process, results are achieved naturally.

Kaizen is not a one-time event. It is a daily process that involves making small improvements over an extended period of time. Having a kaizen mindset means constantly looking around to see how you can make slight, incremental changes to improve your work processes, whether you work in a manufacturing setting, in an office, or are out on the road meeting customers. These small changes many not seem like much, but compounded over time, they can lead to big results.

Tadao Yoshida once described it as making a “paper-thin effort:” “If you content yourself with the same extent of effort as your neighbor, you cannot achieve better results. Therefore, you need to exert additional effort, which may be so slight as a single sheet of paper. This extra effort, added on top of your ordinary effort, will make a big difference in the course of time. You may say, “I can’t do anymore!” But, rouse yourself up to put in a paper-thin effort; then your daily effort will pile up into an enormous result in a year.”

A person seated next to me on an airplane once asked what my job is, and when I said, “I work at YKK. Do you know YKK zippers?” He responded, “Well, that can’t be very complicated.” If he only knew all that goes into making a zipper or a rivet or curtain-wall or hook & loop or vinyl or aluminum windows!

It’s true that as our companies have evolved over the years, our processes to maximize the efficiency with which we operate in order to deal with different situations with thousands of customers while minimizing problems have grown increasingly complex. Our work is ever-changing; so should the processes we use. Let’s have a kaizen mindset – Let’s constantly think of ways to refine and improve, even in small ways, all our business processes, seeking input from everyone involved and/or affected by them. At the same time, let’s avoid approaching our tasks in a completely robotic (some people would say “bureaucratic”) way. We never want to think or say, “Do it this way because that’s the way it has always been done.” Be open to new ideas. Make incremental improvements. Make customers a priority. Be process-driven.


Alex Gregory
Chairman and CEO
YKK Corporation of America