K is for Kaizen

December 17, 2020
Advent Alphabet Series

Kaizen is the name given to the concept of continuous improvement, literally “Kai” meaning “change” and “zen” meaning “good”. The concept was first introduced by Japanese Organisational Theorist, Masaaki Imai in his seminal publication, “Kaizen: The key to Japan’s competitive Advantage”. The philosophy has been adopted by thousands of companies across the world ever since.

The concept of Kaizen is based on 5 fundamental principles for continuous improvement:

  1. Know your customer – understand what they value
  2. Let it flow – Target zero waste, be that manufacturing waste or the waste of time
  3. Go to Gemba – Value is created where things actually happen, get out of the meeting room and go ask the people who know!
  4. Empower People – set goals and measure
  5. Be Transparent – feedback using real process data

A Kaizen burst is a fantastic way to see dramatic improvements to processes by facilitating a short (3-5 day) event where a process is mapped, waste is challenged and radically reduced so that the process becomes lean. It works especially well when a process has been adapted and modified bit by bit, over time, and got unwieldy and clunky. Key is the participation and empowerment of the people working on the process day to day. They usually have the best ideas!

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