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Apr 10, 2010

KAIZEN DEFINITION

The Kaizen philosophy is the Japanese word kai which means “continuous” and zen meaning “improvement”. The Kaizen management philosophy, therefore, is defined as making “continuous improvement”—slow, incremental but constant. It is but surprising that the same Japanese words (kaizen) denote “the action to correct” in Chinese.


The Kaizen way encourages small day-to-day yet continuous and never-ending improvement process involving everyone from managers to workers using the most basic tenet of survival: Common sense.

KaizenMaking sensible decisions and native sound judgment, incidentally, are the ingredients of survival—and Kaizen becomes a handy management kit that best works in times of crisis.

To understand the benefits of Kaizen better, every business or corporation may need to undergo radical change—whatever degree, without any resistance—in order to survive the competition in this fast changing world.

As opposed to the Western brand of pragmatic why-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broke philosophy, Kaizen extends a more optimistic philosophical view: “Everything—even if it ain’t broke—can be made better!”

In business applications, Kaizen covers most of the modules of successful Japanese concepts. Kanban, 5S, quality circles (QCs), just-in-time (JIT) delivery, automation, suggestions systems, etc., are all embedded into the Kaizen system of modern business management.

Setting the structure for Kaizen is very important. This includes appointing self-directed teams that manage to

• analyze problems; and

• generate solutions

The teams need the authority to implement the necessary changes. Everybody needs to be involved.

In the United States, an alternative to the Kaizen approach is called the Kaizen Blitz (or Kaizen Event) where self-directed teams are forced to analyze problems hastily and generate curative solutions—but are immediately dissolved once the problem is solved.

Kaizen is setting doable, replicable standards and then continually improving those standards—because persistent improvements are crucial for the long-term profits.

In spite of different systemic modules, it must be understood that Kaizen is not a method or technique. In the Kaizen system, all existing and standard programs and techniques are still actively used, albeit on an improved level.

Kaizen, therefore, is not all about incentives and rewards—it is about the support given to front-liners to help them improve the way work is done.