KAIZEN is a word that has been on a board in my office. I always wondered whether everyone except for those put it there knew why it was there!

To be frank, as a member of the team, I did not. So I decided to dig into it to some extend which is why I ended up posting this here.

So here you go…..

Kaizen ( Japanese for “continuous improvement”) is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen activities continually improve all functions of a business, from manufacturing to management and from the CEO to the assembly line workers.By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen aims for More value with less work.

K. means literally: change (kai) to become good (zen).

Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses during the country’s recovery after World War II, including Toyota, and has since spread to businesses throughout the world. The 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 foundation of the Kaizen method consists of 5 founding elements:
1. teamwork
2. personal discipline,
3. improved morale,
4. quality circles, and
5. suggestions for improvement.

Kaizen five-S framework
1. Seiri – tidiness
2. Seiton – orderliness
3. Seiso – cleanliness
4. Seiketsu – standardized clean-up
5. Shitsuke – discipline

When to apply the Kaizen philosophy? Although it is difficult to give generic advice it is clear that it fits well in incremental change situations that require long-term change and in collective cultures.

When Kaizen is compared to BPR is it clear the K. philosophy is more people-oriented, more easy to implement, requires long-term discipline. BPR on the other hand is harder, technology-oriented, enables radical change but requires major change management skills.

*BPR(Business Process Reengineering is defined by Hammer and Champy as ‘the fundamental reconsideration and radical redesign of organizational processes, in order to achieve drastic improvement of current performance in cost, service and speed )

Kaizen is relevant in areas of life other than the workplace.

Here is one link for further reading.

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