What is Kaizen?
12 October 2020
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen. These days it’s a popular word, especially in the world of process improvement. If you’ve any affinity for or curiosity about Lean or Lean Six Sigma, there’s no escaping Kaizen. But what is Kaizen? A quick and simple answer to that question would be that it’s Japanese for “change for better”. Of course, that’s not the whole answer. And certainly not the answer you’re looking for. So let’s delve a little deeper.
While it translates directly into “change for better”, as with many words in the Japanese language, the direct translation doesn’t do it justice. A much better translation for Kaizen would be ‘Continuous Improvement’, or even ‘A philosophy of Continuous Improvement’. Specifically, Kaizen is all about continuous improvement in small steps.
The term and the underlying concept of continuous improvement in small steps was first popularized by Masaaki Imai, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, who wrote about it in a book. The underlying concept and mindset however, does not necessarily originate from Japan, and can be traced back to early post-WWII America. This mindset and way of working was exported to Japan during the US occupation, where it was eventually perfected and popularized.
These days, the mindset of Kaizen is not only one of the most important foundations of the Lean Six Sigma methodology, but Kaizen is also often used to refer to one of the methods used in ongoing improvement initiatives: The Kaizen Event. A Kaizen Event is a 3 to 5 day event where a group of people come together to solve a problem (or several problems) at its root cause, and improve the way they work. For this, there’s a variety of Lean Six Sigma tools to employ.
Our short course, ‘Kaizen’, was created in order to familiarize professionals with both this method and the underlying philosophy. It offers a detailed overview of the philosophy and method, and explains how to prepare, execute and follow-up a successful Kaizen event. Kaizen events are an ideal method for solving problems at their root cause and ensuring that they never occur again. All the while improving team synergy and infusing your group with a mindset of Continuous Improvement.