What is Kaizen? Explanation about a Japanese business philosophy
Guest blog by Christian ten Have van Can Opener Advice
Kaizen is a business philosophy for process improvement and originates from Japan. It brings an organization into a state of control and continuous adjustment. Kaizen is based on the idea that small continuous positive changes can lead to big improvements.
Kaizen is the core of lean manufacturing, or The Toyota Way. It was developed in manufacturing industry to reduce defects, eliminate waste, increase productivity, promote worker purpose and realize innovation.
Kaizen is now used in many other industries such as healthcare. It can be applied to any field in business and even personal life.
Kaizen uses a number of tools. Those are the following:
- Value Stream Mapping – here you document, analyze and improve the information of workflows needed to produce a product or service.
- Total Quality management – a management tool that engages employees at all levels to focus on quality improvement.
Regardless of which method you adopt within an organization, the success of Kaizen depends on the support you receive within the organization, from the CEO and the entire management team.
There are 10 basic principles for the Kaizen philosophy.
- Let go of assumptions.
- Be proactive in solving problems.
- Never accept the status quo.
- Let go of perfectionism and adopt an attitude of iterative, adaptive change.
- Look for solutions after discovering mistakes.
- Create an environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute.
- Don't accept the obvious problem; instead, ask “why” five times to find out the cause.
- Collect information and opinions from multiple people.
- Use creativity to find cheap, small improvements.
- Never stop improving.
Kaizen is based on the belief that everything and everywhere can be improved and that there is never a status quo. It is based on the Respect for People principle.
Kaizen identifies problems and opportunities, creating solutions and deploying them. Then the process is cycled again to find other problems or to improve problems that have not been sufficiently addressed.
Cycle for improvement
The following seven steps create a continuous improvement cycle:
- Get employees involved
- Find problems
- Offer solutions
- Test solutions
- Analyze the results
Kaizen was invented by Toyota shortly after World War II. Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, is the spiritual father of Kaizen. He was always looking to improve his product. His hunger for improvement was never satisfied. In Japan, this is called Kaizen, which means 'striving for permanent improvement'.
Other companies have also successfully adopted the approach such as Lockheed Martin, Ford Motor Company, Pixar Animation Studios.