kaizen (改善), is the Japanese word for "improvement". In business,
kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions
and involve all employees from the
CEO to the assembly line workers.
It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that
cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain. It has been
applied in healthcare, psychotherapy, life-coaching, government,
banking, and other industries.
By improving standardized programmes and processes, kaizen aims to
eliminate waste (see lean manufacturing).
Kaizen was first practiced
in Japanese businesses after the Second World War, influenced in part
by American business and quality-management teachers, and most notably
as part of The Toyota Way. It has since spread throughout the world
and has been applied to environments outside business and
4 See also
5.2 Further reading
6 External links
The Japanese word kaizen simply means "change for better", with
inherent meaning of either "continuous" or "philosophy" in Japanese
dictionaries and in everyday use. The word refers to any improvement,
one-time or continuous, large or small, in the same sense as the
English word "improvement". However, given the common practice in
Japan of labeling industrial or business improvement techniques with
the word "kaizen", particularly the practices spearheaded by Toyota,
the word "kaizen" in English is typically applied to measures for
implementing continuous improvement, especially those with a "Japanese
philosophy". The discussion below focuses on such interpretations of
the word, as frequently used in the context of modern management
discussions. Two kaizen approaches have been distinguished:
The former is oriented towards the flow of materials and information,
and is often identified with the reorganization of an entire
production area, even a company. The latter means the improvement of
individual workstands. Therefore, improving the way production workers
do their job is a part of a process kaizen. The use of the kaizen
model for continuous improvement demands that both flow and process
kaizens are used, although process kaizens are used more often to
focus workers on continuous small improvements. In this model,
operators mostly look for small ideas which, if possible, can be
implemented on the same day. This is in contrast to traditional models
of work improvement, which generally have a long lag between concept
development and project implementation.
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple
productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done
correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work
(muri), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work
using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate
waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized
approach to workers and to increasing productivity: "The idea is to
nurture the company's people as much as it is to praise and encourage
participation in kaizen activities." Successful implementation
requires "the participation of workers in the improvement." People
at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO
down to janitorial staff, as well as external stakeholders when
Kaizen is most commonly associated with manufacturing
operations, as at Toyota, but has also been used in non-manufacturing
environments. The format for kaizen can be individual, suggestion
system, small group, or large group. At Toyota, it is usually a local
improvement within a workstation or local area and involves a small
group in improving their own work environment and productivity. This
group is often guided through the kaizen process by a line supervisor;
sometimes this is the line supervisor's key role.
Kaizen on a broad,
cross-departmental scale in companies, generates total quality
management, and frees human efforts through improving productivity
using machines and computing power.
While kaizen (at Toyota) usually delivers small improvements, the
culture of continual aligned small improvements and standardization
yields large results in terms of overall improvement in productivity.
This philosophy differs from the "command and control" improvement
programs (e g Business Process Improvement) of the mid-twentieth
Kaizen methodology includes making changes and monitoring
results, then adjusting. Large-scale pre-planning and extensive
project scheduling are replaced by smaller experiments, which can be
rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.
In modern usage, it is designed to address a particular issue over the
course of a week and is referred to as a "kaizen blitz" or "kaizen
event". These are limited in scope, and issues that arise from
them are typically used in later blitzes. A person
who makes a large contribution in the successful implementation of
kaizen during kaizen events is awarded the title of "Zenkai".
Main article: Industrial change in occupied Japan
The small-step work improvement approach was developed in the USA
Training Within Industry program (TWI Job Methods). Instead
of encouraging large, radical changes to achieve desired goals, these
methods recommended that organizations introduce small improvements,
preferably ones that could be implemented on the same day. The major
reason was that during WWII there was neither time nor resources for
large and innovative changes in the production of war equipment.
The essence of the approach came down to improving the use of the
existing workforce and technologies.
As part of the Marshall Plan after World War II, American occupation
forces brought in experts to help with the rebuilding of Japanese
industry while the Civil Communications Section (CCS) developed a
management training program that taught statistical control methods as
part of the overall material.
Homer Sarasohn and Charles Protzman
developed and taught this course in 1949-1950. Sarasohn recommended W.
Edwards Deming for further training in statistical methods.
The Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) group was also tasked with
improving Japanese management skills and Edgar McVoy was instrumental
in bringing Lowell Mellen to Japan to properly install the Training
Within Industry (TWI) programs in 1951. The ESS group had a training
film to introduce TWI's three "J" programs: Job Instruction, Job
Methods and Job Relations. Titled "
Improvement in Four Steps" (Kaizen
eno Yon Dankai) it thus introduced kaizen to Japan.
For the pioneering, introduction, and implementation of kaizen in
Emperor of Japan
Emperor of Japan awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure
to Dr. Deming in 1960. Subsequently, the Japanese Union of Scientists
and Engineers (JUSE) instituted the annual Deming Prizes for
achievement in quality and dependability of products. On October 18,
1989, JUSE awarded the
Deming Prize to Florida Power & Light Co.
(FPL), based in the US, for its exceptional accomplishments in process
and quality-control management, making it the first company outside
Japan to win the Deming Prize.
Toyota Production System is known for kaizen, where all line
personnel are expected to stop their moving production line in case of
any abnormality and, along with their supervisor, suggest an
improvement to resolve the abnormality which may initiate a kaizen.
The cycle of kaizen activity can be defined as: "Plan → Do → Check
→ Act". This is also known as the Shewhart cycle, Deming cycle, or
Another technique used in conjunction with
PDCA is the 5 Whys, which
is a form of root cause analysis in which the user asks a series of
five "why" questions about a failure that has occurred, basing each
subsequent question on the answer to the previous. There are
normally a series of causes stemming from one root cause, and they
can be visualized using fishbone diagrams or tables. The Five Whys can
be used as a foundational tool in personal improvement, or as a
means to create wealth.
Masaaki Imai made the term famous in his book Kaizen: The Key to
Japan's Competitive Success.
In the Toyota Way Fieldbook, Liker and Meier discuss the kaizen blitz
and kaizen burst (or kaizen event) approaches to continuous
improvement. A kaizen blitz, or rapid improvement, is a focused
activity on a particular process or activity. The basic concept is to
identify and quickly remove waste. Another approach is that of the
kaizen burst, a specific kaizen activity on a particular process in
the value stream.
Kaizen facilitators generally[weasel words]
go through training and certification before attempting a Kaizen
In the 1990s, Professor Iwao Kobayashi published his book 20 Keys to
Improvement and created a practical, step-by-step
improvement framework called "the 20 Keys". He identified 20
operations focus areas which should be improved to attain holistic and
sustainable change. He went further and identified the 5 levels of
implementation for each of these 20 focus areas. 4 of the focus areas
are called Foundation Keys. According to the 20 Keys, these foundation
keys should be launched ahead of the others in order to form a strong
constitution in the company. The four foundation keys are: Key 1 -
Cleaning and Organising to Make Work Easy, which is based on the 5S
methodology. Key 2 - Goal Alignment/Rationalising the System Key 3 -
Small Group Activities Key 4 - Leading and Site Technology.
Business process reengineering
Mottainai, a sense of regret concerning waste
Overall equipment effectiveness
Statistical process control
Theory of constraints
Total productive maintenance
TRIZ, the theory of inventive problem solving
^ a b Imai, Masaaki (1986). Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive
Success. New York: Random House.
^ Weed, Julie (July 10, 2010). "Factory Efficiency Comes to the
Hospital". The New York Times.
^ M. M. Feldman (1992). "Audit in psychotherapy: the concept of
Kaizen" (PDF). Psychiatric Bulletin. Royal College of Psychiatrists.
^ Europe Japan Centre,
Kaizen Strategies for Improving Team
Performance, Ed. Michael Colenso, London: Pearson Education Limited,
^ "Debunked: "kaizen = Japanese philosophy of continuous
improvement"". Retrieved 2009-08-15.
^ a b Misiurek, Bartosz (2016). Standardized Work with TWI:
Eliminating Human Errors in Production and Service Processes. New
York: Productivity Press. ISBN 9781498737548.
^ Tozawa, Bunji; Japan Human Relations Association (1995). The
improvement engine: creativity & innovation through employee
Kaizen teian system. Productivity Press. p. 34.
ISBN 978-1-56327-010-9. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
^ Laraia, Anthony C.; Patricia E. Moody; Robert W. Hall (1999). The
Kaizen Blitz: accelerating breakthroughs in productivity and
performance. John Wiley and Sons. p. 26.
ISBN 978-0-471-24648-0. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
^ "Five Reasons to Implement
Kaizen in Non-Manufacturing". 6sigma.us.
Retrieved March 31, 2015.
^ Hamel, Mark (2010).
Kaizen Event Fieldbook: Foundation, Framework,
and Standard Work for Effective Events. Society Of Manufacturing
Engineers. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-87263-863-1. Retrieved 20 April
^ Karen Martin; Mike Osterling (October 5, 2007). The
Planner. Productivity Press. p. 240. ISBN 1563273519.
^ Graupp P., Wrona B. (2015). The TWI Workbook: Essential Skills for
Supervisors. New York: Productivity Press.
^ US National Archives - SCAP collection - PR News Wire[citation
^ "Taking the First Step with PDCA". 2 February 2009. Retrieved 17
^ 5 Whys
^ "Determine the Root Cause:5 Whys". Retrieved 24 October 2013.
^ "An Introduction to 5-Why". 2 April 2009. Retrieved 1 February
5 Whys and 5 Hows – When Clarity Is Just Two Questions Away".
Retrieved 13 February 2017.
^ Liker, Jeffrey; Meier, David (2006).
The Toyota Way Fieldbook. New
Dinero, Donald (2005). Training Within Industry: The Foundation of.
Productivity Press. ISBN 1-56327-307-1.
Graban, Mark; Joe, Swartz (2012). Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging
Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements (1 ed.).
Productivity Press. ISBN 1439872961.
Maurer, Robert (2012). The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting
Excellence One Small Step at a Time (1 ed.). McGraw-Hill.
Emiliani, Bob; Stec, David; Grasso, Lawrence; Stodder, James (2007).
Better Thinking, Better Results: Case Study and Analysis of an
Enterprise-Wide Lean Transformation (2e. ed.). Kensington, CT, US: The
CLBM, LLC. ISBN 978-0-9722591-2-5.
Hanebuth, D. (2002). Rethinking Kaizen: An empirical approach to the
employee perspective. In J. Felfe (Ed.), Organizational Development
and Leadership (Vol. 11, pp. 59-85). Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang.
Imai, Masaaki (1986). Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success.
McGraw-Hill/Irwin. ISBN 0-07-554332-X.
Imai, Masaaki (1997-03-01). Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost
Approach to Management (1e. ed.). McGraw-Hill.
Scotchmer, Andrew (2008). 5S
Kaizen in 90 Minutes. Management Books
2000 Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85252-547-7.
Bodek, Norman (2010). How to do Kaizen: A new path to innovation -
Empowering everyone to be a problem solver. Vancouver, WA, US: PCS
Press. ISBN 978-0-9712436-7-5.
Kobayashi, Iwao (1995). 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement. Portland,
OR, USA: Productivity, Inc. ISBN 1-56327-109-5.
Look up kaizen in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Toyota stumbles but its "kaizen" cult endures, Reuters
Warping Forward with Kaizen, Karn G. Bulsuk
Kaizen, Joe Marshall
Kaizen startup Best Practice Guide, Ben Geck
Definition of Kaizen, Masaaki Imai
Management by Stress, Jane Slaughter
Six Sigma tools
Voice of the customer
Value stream mapping
Business process mapping
Root cause analysis
Failure mode and effects analysis
Design of experiments
Statistical process control