The word “Kaizen”, also like many of its lean counterparts has its roots in Japanese. It’s a compound word made up from “Kai” (Change) and “Zen” (Perfection/Improvement).
Kaizen was also a part of the TPS (Toyota Production System), wherein traditionally a Toyota team at a manufacturing plant would temporarily halt its production in case of repeated abnormalities and the teams along with their supervisors would try to come up with a newer approach “then-and-there” to solve the particular issue once and for all. This type of activity was termed as a Kaizen-blitz. This practice led to the idea to use small focused improvements in 3-5 day cycles leading to vast improvements in quality which has now become known as “Kaizen”.
A Kaizen event or blitz typically uses existing simple tools like 5S, A3, 5 Why’s and Pareto etc. in combination to solve problems on a production floor.
The central idea behind Kaizen is to achieve small but precious “quick-wins” which improves the culture of change, continuous improvements and eases Lean adoption in any organization.
While Kaizen may be a concentrated improvement activity in a short-span, it is done in a structured manner and often you will find yourselves using Deming’s PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) or the “Shewhart Cycle” along with A3 (using a single A3 sheet for root-cause-analysis and planning improvements) and 5 Whys to solve problems in the Kaizen way.
In short Kaizen is:
- Let’s do improvements now/ASAP.
- Small quick-wins to improve employee morale, facilitate change easily and enable lean.
- A step-by-step continuous improvement philosophy.
- Is reliant upon other lean tools as enablers.
However, in order that Kaizen is successfully achieved, some ground rules or Kaizen-principles that may come in quite handy are:
- A team must start the Kaizen-blitz together at the same time and end the work-day with definite goals for the next day.
- Keep an open-mind and make sure everyone’s opinion is valued and believe that improvement is possible in every idea/process.
- No blame games need to be played and team must try to collectively solve the problem at hand.
- Finally, try to address the root-cause of the problem (5 whys and Pareto are handy here), look for quick-wins not quick-fixes.
I have just tried to provide a theoretical overview for the Kaizen technique in this blog, but at ProSigma workshops you will find that you will learn mostly by experience and interactivity and our Lean Focus is simply unparalleled in India, and we make it available via a range of Lean Six Sigma programs designed to cater to every level of professional.
However, before we conclude this blog, for those interested in more such topics do visit the rest of ProSigma’s blog section and also try our 100% Free and 100% Online Lean Six Sigma White Belt Certification