Before we go ahead to talk about the meaning, principles, needs and benefits of Kaizen; let us explore the Etymological aspects of the word “Kaizen”
Literally translating to “Improvement”, it is derived from the Japanese “kai” meaning “change” and zen meaning “good”.
In Old Chinese it means “to correct errors”.
The term first came into popular usage as one of the key principles of Lean Transformation or “The Toyota Way”. It was also popularised by Masaaki Imai in his dedicated book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success in 1986
The English dictionary defines Kaizen as:
Noun : “kaizen” (plural kaizens)
- a Japanese business practice of continuous improvement in performance and productivity
- continuous improvement in a general way
Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement. Kaizen one of the principles of the Toyota Way: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success. Today Kaizen is recognized worldwide as an important pillar of an organization’s long-term competitive strategy. Kaizen is continuous improvement that is based on certain guiding principles:
- Good processes bring good results
- Go see for yourself to grasp the current situation
- Speak with data, manage by facts
- Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems
- Work as a team
- Kaizen is everybody’s business
- And much more!
One of the most notable features of kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time. However this has been misunderstood to mean that kaizen equals small changes. In fact, kaizen means everyone involved in making improvements. While the majority of changes may be small, the greatest impact may be kaizens that are led by senior management as transformational projects, or by cross-functional teams as kaizen events.
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