Kaizen is often translated in the west as
ongoing, continuous improvement. Some authors explain Japan's
competitive success in the world market place as the result of
the implementation of the Kaizen concept in Japanese
corporations. In contrast to the usual emphasis on revolutionary,
innovative change on an occasional basis, Kaizen looks for
uninterrupted, ongoing incremental change. In other words, there
is always room for improvement and continuously trying to become
Originally a Buddhist term, Kaizen comes from the words,
"Renew the heart and make it good." Therefore,
adaptation of the Kaizen concept also requires changes in "the
heart of the business", corporate culture and structure, since
Kaizen enables companies to translate the corporate vision in
every aspect of a company's operational practice.
According to Imai (1986), an important advocate of Kaizen,
"Kaizen means improvement. Moreover it means continuing
improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working
life. When applied to the workplace Kaizen means continuing
improvement involving everyone - managers and workers alike."
Believers of this theory maintain that managers of production
operations cannot stand still; continuous development and
improvement is critical to long term success.
In practice, Kaizen can be implemented in corporations by
improving every aspect of a business process in a step by step
approach, while gradually developing employee skills through
training education and increased involvement. The principle in
Kaizen implementation are:
- human resources are the most important company asset,
- processes must evolve by gradual improvement rather than
- improvement must be based on statistical/quantitative
evaluation of process performance.
Support throughout the entire structure is necessary to become
successful at developing a strong Kaizen approach. Management as
well as workers need to believe in the Kaizen idea and strive
toward obtaining the small goals in order to reach overall
success. Therefore, all members of an organization need to be
trained in a manner to support this idea structure. Resources,
measurements, rewards, and incentives all need to be aligned to
and working with the Kaizen structure of ideas.
It is the little things that add up to bigger things.
SkyMark's PathMaker software gives you the tools which will help
you in this process, gathering ideas, trying solutions,
collecting data, and cycling back through again. Find out more about