Continuous Improvement

The Japanese word Kaizen means to work to continuously improve ones self.

Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement”. It is a daily activity aiming to eliminate waste. Kaizen is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (both mental and physical), and teaches people how to perform experiments using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.

Kaizen must operate with three principles in place: process and results (not results-only); systemic thinking (i.e. big picture, not solely the narrow view); and non-judgmental, non-blaming (because blaming is wasteful). People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO down, as well as external stakeholders when applicable. The format for kaizen can be individual, suggestion system, small group, or large group. In Toyota it is usually a local improvement within a workstation or local area and involves a small group in improving their own work environment and productivity.

Whilst Kaizen usually deliver small improvements the culture of continual small improvements and standardisation yields large results in a form of compound productivity improvement. Hence the English translation of Kaizen can be: “continuous improvement”, or “continual improvement.”

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