What is Kaizen?
The Kaizen method of continuous incremental improvements is an originally Japanese management concept for gradual, continuous (incremental) change (improvement). Kaizen is actually a way of life philosophy. It assumes that every aspect of our life deserves to be constantly improved. The Kaizen philosophy lies behind many Japanese management concepts such as: Total Quality Control,Quality Control circles, small group activities, labor relations. Key elements of Kaizen are: quality, effort, involvement of all employees,willingness to change, and communication.
Japanese companies distinguish between: Innovation, a radical form of
change, and Kaizen, a continuous form of change. Kaizen means literally:
change (kai) to become good (zen).
The five foundation elements of
- Improved morale.
- Suggestions for improvement.
Out of this foundation, three key factors in Kaizen arise
- Elimination of waste (muda) and inefficiency.
- The Kaizen five-S framework for good housekeeping.
- 1. Seiri – tidiness
- 2. Seiton – orderliness
- 3. Seiso – cleanliness
- 4. Seiketsu – standardized clean-up
- 5. Shitsuke – discipline
When should the Kaizen philosophy be applied? Although it is difficult to
give generic advice it is clear that it fits well in gradual, incremental
change situations that require long-term change and in collective cultures.
More individual cultures that are more focused on short-term success are
often more conducive to concepts such as
Business Process Reengineering.
Kaizen compared to Business Process Reengineering
When Kaizen is compared with the BPR method it is clear the Kaizen
philosophy is more people-oriented, more easy to implement, but requires
long-term discipline and provides only a small pace of change. The Business
Process Reengineering approach on the other hand is harder,
technology-oriented, it enables radical change but it requires considerable
change management skills.
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