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The Global State of Operational Excellence:
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Kaizen Definition
Image credit: Fuchs Electronics


What is Kaizen? The Definition of Kaizen

One of the most important tenets of kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time. Continuous, incremental changes that take at every level from the shop floor to the c-level are credited for the success of Kaizen 'events'.

READ MORE: Our Top 10 Kaizen Books 

Essentially, Kaizen is the principle of continuous improvement, within a paradigm of some key guiding principles, including:

  • Good processes bring good results
  • Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems
  • Go see for yourself to grasp the current situation - or, 'Going to Gemba'
  • Speaking with data, managing with facts
  • Working as a team


Check out: What is Lean?


Has Your Continuous Improvement Program Gone from the Five Whys to Why Bother?

By Bob Dean and Keith Yeater, TBM Consulting

Kaizen definition in business

How can Kaizen Work with Lean?

Kaizen works by reducing waste, or 'muda' and eliminating work processes that are too complex or difficult - 'muri'. As a lean business tool, Kaizen puts emphasis on success occuring only when all employees look for areas to improve and providing suggestions, based on their own observations and experience.

For this to work, a culture must be created within the organization that all suggestions are welcome,  and that there will be no negative consequences for participating. Instead, employees are encouraged for suggesting changes that improve the workplace. Workers become more confident and invested in improving the company. In turn, they become leaders that continually look for areas that can be improved.

WATCH NOW: A Systematic Approach to Creating a Culture of Structured Problem Solving 

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About the Video Presentation:

Key Learning Takeaways include:

  • Systems govern behavior; behaviors create a culture
  • Define what a system is and how one gets created
  • Identify what systems you need to in order to do structured problem solving
  • How is this different from what we do now and what will it lead to?

Watch Mustafa's Interview on BTOES Insights 

Kaizen Definition - What is Kaizen?

'Going to Gemba' and Kaizen

Gemba is a philosophy in Lean that is hugely prominent in Kaizen - the principle that expresses the importance of going to the shop floor. It reminds leadership within a company practising Lean to visit the plant floor, and gain understanding of the 'real action'. Going to Gemba provides leadership with an understanding of the real processes and day-to-day undertaking of Lean principles.

The Benefits of Lean Kaizen

Much like with Lean and Six Sigma, some of the expected benefits are identified as:

  • Increased productivity
  • Improved quality
  • Better safety practises
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Lower costs

As well as these practical benefits, there are a number of 'soft benefits' that Kaizen can use to help improve the overall culture of the company and increase employee retention:

  • Improved communication and cooperation
  • Improved morale and employee satisfaction
  • Greater personal investment in the company among employees and management.

READ MORE: Our Top 10 Kaizen Books 

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