Kaizen Definition

Cite this article as:"Kaizen Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 20, 2019, last accessed October 27, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/kaizen-definition/.


Kaizen Definition

Kaizen is a fundamental approach to creating continuous improvement founded on the solid idea that small, ongoing positive transitions can reap significant improvements. Kaizen is based on cooperation as well as a commitment as it stands in contrast to various approaches that apply radical changes or top-down edicts aimed to acquire transformation. The Kaizen mission is to lean manufacturing. It was created in the sector of manufacturing to progressively lower defects, eliminate waste and foster employee satisfaction.

A Little More on What is Kaizen

More than 35 years ago, Mr. Maasai Imai focused on establishing a book titled Kaizen, the key to Japan’s competitive success. Through the book that discusses policies of Kaizen, it was discovered that it’s an essential pillar of every organization’s long-term success strategy. Kaizen is, therefore, indispensable to a company’s business improvement when it comes to yield superior results. Not only does Kaizen mean continuing increase in home life and social life but also in working experience. When utilized in the employment sector, Kaizen enhances improvement.

Traditional Concepts

The history of Kaizen started right after World War II when the Toyota implemented quality circles in its entire production process. The war was influenced by the American business society as well as quality management teachers that visited the country. Therefore, a quality circle comprising of a group of workers performing the same tasks who often met to identify and then analyze and solve work-related issues formed a union. This revolutionary concept became popular in Japan. It was passed in the traditional platform that consisted of five important concepts namely teamwork, improved morale, quality, personal discipline, as well as suggestions for improvement. The five aspects of Kaizen largely contributed to three main results namely the elimination of wastes, standardization of ethical practices at work, and good housekeeping. The Kaizen concept goes ahead to poise that there is no perfect end to these activities of improvement. However, a lot can be achieved with best practices.

Contemporary Attitudes

At the core of Kaizen is teamwork, thereby making the philosophy a team-building strategy. Cooperation is the main buzzword for all organizations. However, very few companies implement it. This implies that there’s a mystery about developing a functional team. The disconnect existing in the corridors of the organizations calls for the implementation of the Kaizen policy. Therefore, managers should implement more transitions.

Reference for Kaizen

Academic Research on Kaizen

  • Kaizen in Japan: an empirical study, Paul Brunet, A., & New, S. (2003). International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 23(12), 1426-1446. This paper analyses the primary use of Kaizen specifically in Japanese companies. As a term widely used in company management as well as productivity, the practice has fostered various improvement methods. In this area specifically, employees of different cultures have faced changes when it comes to applying new systems. But, the development of Kaizen activity and practices is immensely represented with a detailed description of the current element which is also compared with firms that specialize in the manufacture of steel and automotive products to be uniform in production. It was established that Kaizen mainly evolves within every organization depending on the evolution of an organization’s business environment.
  • Continuous improvement and kaizen: standardization and organizational designs, Berger, A. (1997). Integrated manufacturing systems, 8(2), 110-117.  This paper analyses how change happens in an organization and how the continuous improvement of the Kaizen practice is beneficial to the growth of an organization. It was discussed that a set of principles from the Japanese improvement concept should undergo various phases of conceptual changes in the form of improvement, termed as CI, to improve the idea of reducing variability at the workplace. Some of the standards of operation that were used included information and communication as well as direct standard practices. It was also concluded that some expert forces are vital for the betterment of the organization.
  • The benefits of Kaizen and Kaizen events, Manos, A. (2007). Quality progress, 40(2), 47. This article highlights the benefits of Kaizen practices and its events alike. Businesses continue to turn towards the lean manufacturing tools in order to find various ways to tighten their belts such that they can remain competitive in the market. Lean tools from Kaizen practice coupled with low up-front costs are appealing to such organizations. Kaizen highly focuses on the continuous improvement of management, and it can be implemented nearly on any budget. Kaizen benefit companies by eliminating difficult work. This will, in turn, reduce prospective mistakes thereby increasing efficiency. Other than that, Kaizen events are standard practices in organizations.
  • Critical success factors for human resource outcomes in Kaizen events: An empirical study, Farris, J. A., Van Aken, E. M., Doolen, T. L., & Worley, J. (2009). International Journal of Production Economics, 117(1), 42-65. This paper studies the improvement programs of Kaizen events and their impact on organizations. Research indicates that there has been an extended study of such practices since time immemorial. As such, it was declared that there are important factors that a company must implement for it to be successful in using the Kaizen practice. To establish the findings, researchers used 51 events found in 6 manufacturing firms with the aim to identify specific elements that relate to the growth as well as the development of worker’s attitudinal outcomes.
  • Transferring Japanese kaizen activities to overseas plants in China, Aoki, K. (2008). International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 28(6), 518-539. This paper extensively examines various management practices of Kaizen activities to foreign companies. The study intends to shed light by giving an in-depth understanding of the organizational capabilities that often facilitate an incremental organization-wide innovation. It also addresses the process involved in transferring these practices to China and how useful they are to various organizations.The findings of this study indicated that there were common characteristics of different practices of management that were successful in various organizations. The research also showed that human practices emphasized the value of having workers who could multitask at any given time of employment. This research study was constituted by the procedure of the conducted estimation of Kaizen ideas taking into account practicality as well as the efficiency of the concept and direct influence of the practice on safety, cost, time, as well as safety. It also delves into the personal involvement of workers, which may be applied as an improvement element in every organization estimating every improving activity.
  • Kaizen and culture: on the transferability of Japanese suggestion systems, Recht, R., & Wilderom, C. (1998). international business review, 7(1), 7-22. In this paper, it is established that the Japanese employment system encourages workers to generate a significant number of suggestions and incorporate them into the Kaizen strategy. Also, management gives recognition to workers and their efforts for their commitment to improvement. An essential aspect to the suggestion system is for each element, once implemented, leads to a higher and better standard of practice. Primary quality control practices can also be viewed as a critical group-oriented suggestion system for enhancing improvement.
  • Kaizen costing for lean manufacturing: a case study, Modarress, B., Ansari*, A., & Lockwood, D. L. (2005). International Journal of Production Research, 43(9), 1751-1760. This paper presents a primary case study of the Kaizen costing just like it’s practiced in the commercial sector by various companies such as Boeing Commercial Airplane Company and IRC Division. The primary objective of the study is to analyze a method that’s used to set the Kaizen costs which will offer relevant cost data to support lean production decisions that would be useful to different practitioners. The term Kaizen costing refers to a method of reducing managing costs. It also refers to continuous improvement costing. The technique is aimed at ensuring that there’s cost reduction up to the standard level. However, this should be implemented without negative impact not only on quality but safety as well.
  • Inventory management KAIZEN, Palmer, V. S. (2001). In Engineering Management for Applied Technology, 2001. EMAT 2001. Proceedings. 2nd International Workshop on (pp. 55-56). IEEE. This report presents a detailed analysis of how Kaizen practices can be used to remove waste from inventory management. The research study is based on understanding the whole Kaizen process and how to incorporate it into an organization. It offers a better understanding of the value of minimizing waste during the process of production. Kaizen processes use lean tools to enable an organization to differentiate value from waste to enhance customer experience and add value to the organization.
  • Critical success factors for the sustainability of Kaizen event human resource outcomes: An empirical study, Glover, W. J., Farris, J. A., Van Aken, E. M., & Doolen, T. L. (2011). International Journal of Production Economics, 132(2), 197-213. This paper sheds some light on the Kaizen events and how they are useful in enabling various management processes in an organization. It was noted that the events are increasingly a common organizational improvement mechanism intended to transform a company and enhance employee development. Although many anecdotal design prescriptions are existent, there is little empirical evidence regarding which type of input as well as process factors are strongly related to the Kaizen event outcomes that have been put in practice. This paper applies results from a field study of different 65 events and uses the results to create guidelines for organizations.
  • Learning from less successful Kaizen events: a case study, Farris, J. A., Van Aken, E. M., Doolen, T. L., & Worley, J. (2008). Engineering Management Journal, 20(3), 10-20. This research paper analyzes the use of Kaizen practices to improve structures that will enhance management practices at work. It was discovered that there’s a particular mechanism used in the Kaizen events and that is focused on the improvement of various projects that use a dedicated cross-functional team to better a targeted area of work that has specified goals in a primarily accelerated time-frame. The research also presents various methods as well as measures that may be used by different managers as well as engineers to evaluate Kaizen practices. The results of the study regarding the use of Kaizen events indicated that there is a need to understand these practices for future research as described.  
  • The effect of Japanese Kaizen on employee motivation in US manufacturing, Cheser, R. N. (1998). The international journal of organizational analysis, 6(3), 197-217. This paper analyzes the underpinning principle of KAIZEN in the Japanese employment industry. It also analyses its use in various situations that entail problem-solving through specific tools that can be used for the identification of work-based issues. The objective of the paper is to cite improvement to reach new revolutionary benchmarks that can offer solutions to every problem and motivate employees to work hard. As such, the study used traditional and modern Japanese manufacturing methods to assess the difference in productivity levels. It was established that Kaizen utilizes scientific management techniques to increase job enrichment.

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