Everything about Kaizen Management – Lean Methodology

The Kaizen management approach, first mentioned in Japan in the 1950s and popularized in the West in the mid-1980s, is as relevant today as it was then and is applied in all sorts of management disciplines, such as innovation research: developed in 2020 dr Volker Doberanzke from the ZBW –
Leibniz Center for Economics a strategic approach to establishing a continuous innovation process in medium-sized companies

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese term: kai means “improvement” and zen means “good”, which translates to “continuous improvement”. In simple terms it means change for the better or it can also mean improvement. More specifically, it means continuous improvement, either personally or perhaps in the work environment.

Kaizen is mainly concerned with working life, where it also represents a management concept. Thus, Kaizen can be defined as a statistical process control used to improve quality in every aspect of the company.

It also applies to processes such as purchasing and logistics, which are integrated into the supply chain across organizational boundaries.

Kaizen leads to continuous small improvements throughout the organization. It aims at the success of the company. Kaizen not only focuses on the manufacturing area, but also includes all other departments as well as the implementation.

Kaizen tools are not the responsibility of any single person. It affects every member who is directly connected to the organization. Every individual, regardless of their function or hierarchical level, contributes by bringing small improvements and changes to the entire system.

History of Kaizen Methods

The history of the Kaizen method begins after World War II, when Toyota first introduced quality circles into its production process. This introduction influenced American businessmen. But what does a quality circle mean?

A quality circle consists of workers who regularly do the same or a similar job and analyze and solve the work-related problems. This concept became popular in Japan in the 1950s. Today it continues to exist in the form of a Kaizen group. Masaaki Imai made the term Kaizen known around the world. Masakiyamai is a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant specializing in quality management.

The Kaizen method became particularly well known in the West in 1986 by Masaaki Imai . He founded the Kaizen consulting group KICG, which helped Western companies to adopt the Kaizen systems and tools. Today, the Kaizen method is recognized worldwide as one of the most important pillars for the long-term practical success of an organization.

Since the introduction of this term as a systematic approach to an improvement process, companies that use the Kaizen method have consistently achieved better results. The Japanese believe that many small, continuous changes in the system and policies produce more effective results than a few large changes.

The double meaning of Kaizen

One of the greatest benefits of Kaizen is its dual nature. You can see it as a combination of philosophy and plan.

Kaizen as an action plan

First, Kaizen is a plan of action. It’s about organizing events in practice that focus on improving specific areas within the company. Employee teams at all levels of the company are involved in these events. Kaizen focuses on improving specific areas of manufacturing. For this purpose, Kaizen involves the employees in production and also obtains their opinion directly in practice. So various plans or agreements can also come from these people.

Kaizen also works hand in hand with standardized work. Standardized activities capture the current best practices for a process, and Kaizen aims to find improvements to those processes.

Kaizen as a philosophy

Kaizen is continuous improvement process of productivity considered as a gradual and mathematical process and focuses on all areas of life as a continuous improvement process. Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning change for the better. It is about a culture in which all employees actively submit and implement suggestions for improvement for the company. In truly lean organizations, it becomes a natural mindset for both the leaders and the people in the operations.

Kaizen has become the source of thought for both managers and employees in companies. This philosophy guides them to continuous improvement.

Key features of Kaizen know-how

The traditional Japanese followed five basic principles, including:

  • Teamwork
  • personal discipline
  • improved morale
  • quality
  • suggestions for improvement

Because of these five aspects, Kaizen is now an integral part of every organization. The most important features are described below:

First, improvement through Kaizen is mainly based on a large number of small changes and not on a large development at the same time.

Since Kaizen takes the ideas of the employees themselves, they are less likely to be radically different. It takes you from the existing current state to the defined target state that you expect.

Because Kaizen involves every employee in the workplace and office, it encourages employees to take responsibility for their actions and can help them work as a team. This improves employee motivation.

Why is Kaizen required?

Typically, in practice, Kaizen is based on collaboration, commitment and attitude and is more of a working philosophy than a specific tool. His approach can be found in many of the different methodologies for process improvement. When applied, all employees are responsible for identifying changes, gaps and inefficiencies. Everyone at every level of a company makes suggestions as to where improvement can take place. The Kaizen methodology aims primarily at improving product effectiveness, safety and waste reduction, and there is much more to be gained by taking this approach. The introduction in your company offers many advantages:

organizational culture

This system of shared values, beliefs and assumptions determines how individuals behave in an organization.

human resources

These are the people who make up the workforce of a company or industry.

Reduces waste

This is used more efficiently than the skills of our employees. These professionals mainly focus on minimizing waste.

satisfaction of people

People are happier because professionals have a direct impact on the way things get done. They directly affect people by meeting their needs.

Improved engagement

Team members are inclined to commit to the right work if they keep doing it. Devotion to this also increases.


Your main task is to minimize the problems and maximize the efficiency of the processes. So you look at the processes and start solving problems continuously.

suggestions for improvement

Providing methods to improve businesses comes after knowing the benefits of Kaizen.

The 10 principles of Kaizen

Kaizen follows the 10 Kaizen Principles. By following these rules, you can ensure your business is constantly improving, growing faster, and creating a thriving workplace culture. Now let’s discuss these principles.

  1. Keep improving everything
    The word Kaizen itself means continuous improvement and is thus the first principle of Kaizen. It means that everything must be continuously improved.
  2. Abolition of old and traditional concepts
    Applying old, traditional methods to the current trends cannot bring the desired results, so it is better to adapt to the new technologies by getting rid of the old ones.
  3. See waste and problems as an opportunity
    This is the greatest opportunity for you and your company. The more problems you see, the more ideas you can have. You can always turn waste into gold if you want to be valuable to your business, society, family, etc. You have to solve problems, fix things and create value.
  4. If something goes wrong, correct it
    That said, if you feel a process isn’t going well, don’t kill it. Just change the approach and fix it.
  5. Empower everyone to participate in problem solving.
    A single person may not be able to make a valid suggestion to solve the problem. That is why it is better to involve several professionals in the discussion. This will give you a variety of appropriate problem-solving techniques.
  6. Be transparent
    Being transparent means that you show other employees what you are doing and let everyone know about your day-to-day tasks. This is the standard by which we measure ourselves. Getting the opinions of multiple people, including multiple professionals, when implementing decisions will help you make the right decisions.

Best Practices of Kaizen

Kaizen management best practices will give you a significant edge in your business. The two factors that are critical in today’s economy are lean operations and continuous improvement. Another important component is empowering your employees to participate in finding opportunities for improvement and finding solutions.

Kaizen culture is a culture of achievement

Kaizen makes it possible to implement changes quickly and thus create a dynamic that is carried over to the next project. It also keeps energy levels high, which in turn leads to greater employee engagement. These changes form the building blocks for a culture of continuous improvement with the goal of constant perfection.

Ensure that every employee is involved in decision-making

Kaizen is an improvement method that involves every employee in the work, because employees are your greatest asset of ideas and skills, but they believe their voice is not heard. Kaizen management also involves employers in the identification and implementation of idea management. Seeing their position in the company validated gives them the confidence and motivation to keep looking for ways to improve.

Kaizen is better politics

Kaizen management believes that every aspect of a company (employees, customers, products, competition, etc.) can be improved. As mentioned, even employees are encouraged to review existing policies and practices. So it’s better not to think about reasons why something can’t be done.

Just ignore the conventional limitations and find out how it can be done.

Elimination of waste in any form

According to the Kaizen philosophy, waste affects all resources. A resource that can never be replenished is time. Therefore, every measure should bring a certain added value for the company. Also, employees should be encouraged to look for ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

A workplace should be designed in such a way that no unnecessary steps are taken.

Never ignore small changes

A better approach leads to better results. Therefore, approach changes in small steps. Researchers say that if you improve by just 1 percent every day for a year, you’re 37 times better than when you started validating and implementing small changes. This can increase the speed of improvement and also reduce the pressure and risk of implementing a major change.

Don’t focus on the goal, focus on the process

Kaizen is based on a philosophy of small, incremental, continuous improvement. When this style is fully operational, it creates a self-sustaining cycle of possibilities and solutions. It also aims to reduce the waste of time, money and other resources. Goal-oriented management focuses mainly on the control of actions, which works less well. Kaizen, on the other hand, is very flexible and adaptable. It meets a predefined number and continuously improves each term. Kaizen also keeps an eye on the big picture. Goal-oriented management, on the other hand, is more geared towards short-term goals.

Carry out a standardized work

For improvements to last, they must be standardized and repeatable. The standardization of work is crucial to the Kaizen principle as it creates a basis for improvement. First, improvements are made to a process, then the new standard work is documented to maintain the improvements, and then a new baseline is established. Standard work also reduces variability and processes, and fosters the discipline that is essential to continuous improvement efforts.

enforce improvements

Enforcing the changes you’ve made to your processes is very important to the improvements you’ve made. The final method of doing this is to document improvements that ensure your standard work is up to date. And educating employees on the new practices can help maintain the progress you’ve made in your continuous improvement efforts.

Now that we have learned about the 10 Kaizen Principles, let’s talk about the different types of Kaizen.

Types of Kaizen

Kaizen is introduced in an organization to have a better chance of realizing all the principles above. There are types, some are short-term goal oriented, others long-term. Now let’s discuss these Kaizen methods:

dot kaizen

This is one of the most commonly used Kaizen methods. It is a very quick approach that can be implemented without much planning. The term point kaizen is often associated with discrete events in a department or company.

As soon as something is broken or wrong, quick and immediate action can be taken to fix the problems. These actions can be isolated and easy to implement, but they can have a major impact on the productivity of the system. Sometimes kaizen in one area can reduce the usefulness of point kaizen in another area. An example of selective action could be an inspection of the medical workshop by a manager. He finds defective material or other small problems and asks the store owner to do a quick 5-way kaizen to fix those problems.

Line Kaizen

This work philosophy is usually referred to as the propagation of Lean from a point, ie it refers to the application of Lean techniques to both areas of the organization and the formation of a line between the two. For example, in practice it can be applied to one point and also to another process, these two points representing a line kaizen, e.g. B. A short-term Kaizen event that is carried out in the planning department of the organization and another point that is applied in the procurement department.

System Kaizen

System Kaizen addresses system-level problems in an organization. It is one of the methods of higher level strategic planning. It is used to develop a vision for the future of the entire organization. State leverage concepts such as B. value stream maps, lead to some planned kaizen events over a long period of time.

This is in contrast to spot-on kaizen, which results from identifying a small problem that is solved within a short period of time.

Dice Kaizen

Cube kaizen refers to a situation where all the points of the planes are connected, which usually looks like a cube. There is no break between processes. This can lead to lean processes throughout the organization. Improvements are made in all areas of the organization. Starting with the up and down flows, through the entire organization to the suppliers, customers and products. This may require some changes in standard business processes.

Phases of Kaizen implementation

  • identification of the problems
  • gathering the facts
  • Analyzing the system (analysis)
  • Trying out new methods
  • Implementation.

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