Kaizen

Kaizen strategy is the single most important concept in Japanese management–the key to successful Japanese companies such as Toyota. Kaizen, which simply means continuous improvement, is the foundation for all Lean production improvements. Kaizen events are opportunities to make focused changes in the workplace.

Kaizen is actually a way of life philosophy. It assumes that every aspect of our life deserves to be constantly improved. The Kaizen philosophy lies behind many Japanese management concepts such as: Total Quality Control, Quality Control circles, small group activities, labor relations.

Key elements of Kaizen are: quality, effort, involvement of all employees, willingness to change, and communication.

Japanese companies distinguish between: Innovation, a radical form of change, and Kaizen, a continuous form of change. Kaizen means literally: change (kai) to become good (zen).

The five foundation elements of Kaizen

  1. Teamwork.
  2. Personal discipline.
  3. Improved morale.
  4. Quality circles.
  5. Suggestions for improvement.

Out of this foundation, three key factors in Kaizen arise

  1. Elimination of waste (muda) and inefficiency.
  2. The Kaizen five-S framework for good housekeeping.
    1. Seiri – tidiness
    2. Seiton – orderliness
    3. Seiso – cleanliness
    4. Seiketsu – standardized clean-up
    5. Shitsuke – discipline
  3. Standardization.

When should the Kaizen philosophy be applied? Although it is difficult to give generic advice it is clear that it fits well in gradual, incremental change situations that require long-term change and in collective cultures. More individual cultures that are more focused on short-term success are often more conducive to concepts such as Business Process Reengineering.

Kaizen compared to Business Process Reengineering

When Kaizen is compared with the BPR method it is clear the Kaizen philosophy is more people-oriented, more easy to implement, but requires long-term discipline and provides only a small pace of change. The Business Process Reengineering approach on the other hand is harder, technology-oriented, it enables radical change but it requires considerable change management skills.

You can learn more about Kaizen in this training presentation.  Based on Masaaki Imai’s teachings on ‘Kaizen’ and ‘Gemba Kaizen’, this training presentation is specially designed for managers and supervisors who are interested in developing a Kaizen culture in the workplace and facilitating Kaizen events as a mechanism to improve operational efficiency.

Source: Masaaki Imai – Kaizen

Lean Methodologies Reference Documents

Lean Manufacturing
https://flevy.com/browse/business-document/lean-manufacturing-overview-160

Lean Standard Work
https://flevy.com/browse/business-document/opex-lean-standard-work-training-module-569

Lean Office
https://flevy.com/browse/business-document/lean-office-350

Lean Thinking
https://flevy.com/browse/business-document/lean-thinking-827

Kaizen
https://flevy.com/browse/business-document/kaizen-153

Value Stream Mapping
https://flevy.com/browse/business-document/opex-value-stream-mapping-training-module-599

Identifying Waste
https://flevy.com/browse/business-document/identifying-waste-618

Business frameworks like Kaizen are invaluable to evaluating and analyzing various business problems. You can download business frameworks developed by management consultants and other business professionals at Flevy here.

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