What are the best KAIZEN applications

Kaizen events: 30 years of nonsense

Toyota, Lean, Kaizen, KVP and Co. have been reported on for almost three decades. A great thing, if nonsense wasn't told too often. Once again, this fact goes back to a lack of understanding of the matter. Let us therefore consider the "Kaizen Event" a little.


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Kaizen is not understood

Everyone who deals with Lean Management knows Kaizen. Mostly translated as "the way to the better". It is not uncommon to claim that Kaizen has been understood or even internalized. At least the latter is not often found, because there is far more to this one word than you might think.

Due to a lack of understanding of the Asian way of thinking, Kaizen is quickly supplemented with an additional word in our latitudes. This is intended to provide clarity. Examples: Point Kaizen, River Kaizen, System Kaizen. On the one hand more understandable for us, on the other hand it is wrong at its core. It is necessary that the term be used as in the origin. As far as I know, there is no extension for this in Japanese usage and there is usually a good reason for this.

Endless repetition

"When I am asked what sets Toyota apart from other companies, the answer is: everyone understands, there is no end to Kaizen." Fujio Cho

“Kaizen is an endless process.” Akio Toyoda

It is quickly forgotten that Kaizen is not a method that is brought out and used when necessary. This inconspicuous term is one of the success elements of Toyota and represents the basis of any change.

Kaizen events

This term gives rise to a completely wrong view, which leads to incorrect or incomplete implementation.

At the time of the first exchange between Japan and the USA, there was no lean at all. Kaizen was mentioned, if at all. As time went on, Westerners understood that it was a way for the better. They took their Japanese guests with them to the companies. There the workers were told that “Kaizen is now being made”.

At first Kaizen was done during a short visit, then in a half or full day seminar, later for a few days. The visitors came, made kaizen and left again. The same thing happened next time. You went to a workshop and made kaizen there. So the translation for non-Japanese. It was not perceived as an everyday process that has to be lived constantly, but as a method and a planned event. The term Kaizen event was born.

Stayed that way to this day

There are still countless companies that organize a Kaizen day once a month or 2-3 times a year and in the worst case even shut down all machines in order to work out improvements together.

Part of everyday life

As soon as it is understood what it is about, Kaizen has to become part of everyday life. In all areas and at all levels. This forms the basis for learning and the associated development of employees.

“Listening and understanding is not enough. You have to practice Kaizen every day. It has to become your ability, your philosophy and your understanding. This creates and develops your own path. ”Chihiro Nakao

Other view prevailing

The alignment in the form of a repeating event has lasted for decades. In many minds, Kaizen has been recorded as a periodic activity.

Of course, the implementation is not without a positive effect, otherwise this procedure would not have lasted that long. However, potential is wasted every day. The idea of ​​Kaizen will never be lived. Those involved don't make life easier for themselves, they usually make it harder. And with it all upstream and downstream positions, including customers and suppliers.

The application of Kaizen through events means that Lean in its entirety can neither be recognized nor practiced. The foundation is completely absent. Kaizen is too seldom made and when it is, it is usually wrong. Kaizen is not a method!

Worse than events

The Kaizen Blitz - often used to give the whole thing a powerful touch. “Right next to it is also over”, as it is so beautifully called, because this term does not exist and makes no sense at all.

Is a machine struck by lightning? Is someone electrified? Oh no, it means that there is an improvement at this point in a very short period of time. Some have given this range a duration of 2-5 days. Once again nothing was understood. This also applies to those who equate lightning with Kaikaku or call it Kaizen Super, Lean Event or Rapid Fire Lean.

All combinations can be topped. With "Kaizen Best Practice".

Understanding promotes good results

A Lean mentor friend made the experience that the way the terms are understood, this is how they are passed on and applied. This means: a poor understanding leads to a poor implementation and thus to poor results. The negative spiral turns.

Exception workshop

The exception to the combination of terms is the “Kaizen Workshop”. It is about the introduction to the topic, the teaching of the theory and the first practical application in the form of a workshop. This makes it easier for both the facilitator and the student to get started with this exciting way of thinking. The addition tells the interested party that they will be introduced to the subject under the expert guidance of an experienced person and that a focused approach is available.

Closing word

Kaizen is and remains Kaizen. Call it that, and most importantly, practice it every day.