And Now We Have “Kakushin” (sigh…)

In the December 9, 2006 Wall Street Journal article titled As Rivals Catch Up, Toyota CEO Spurs Big Efficiency Drive the Toyota Motor Corporation President Watanabe adds another Japanese word to the Lean lexicon: kakushin. Debates could rage for years among Lean geeks: is it kaizen, kaikaku or kakushin?
Let’s get this out of the way so we can get back to work:
Kaizen = 改善 = change+good = improvement / continuous improvement
Kaikaku = 改革 = change+revolutionary = transformation / reform / big improvement
Kakushin = 革新 = new+revolutionary = innovation / reform / renewal
The WSJ article explains kakushin as “revolutionary change” but this is wrong. Kakushin literally means “innovation” or reform as in the reformists in a political party. It is different than innovation as in the current business buzzword, meaning coming up with new things to sell. “Renewal” or “radical renewal” would be best for kakushin. Kakushin is more akin to kaikaku than kaizen.
So why is Watanabe using kakushin rather than kaikaku? For one, kaikaku is becoming a rather tired word in Japan. Perhaps a new word is needed to get everyone’s attention. The former prime minister of Japan was beating that drum throughout his tenure, and kaikaku in Japan has caught on to mean something similar to “Lean transformation” to manufacturers and other business, though it is a bit broader and vaguer.
Clearly Watanabe is putting his own stamp on the change he wants to see at Toyota using this word. What does he want from kakushin? Start with cutting the number of parts in a car in half, make the factories faster more flexible to manufacture the simplified cars, and cut out $8.68 billion in cost, according to the WSJ article.
One quote from the WSJ article is classic Toyota thinking:
“We know our resources are stretched thin; there’s no doubt about that,” Mr. Watanabe says. “But at least we are beginning to know where our problems lie now. Our biggest fear is: What if those issues get stuffed in a desk drawer?”
That would be a big, scary desk drawer.
The rest of the article is a combination standard PR-piece profiling Watanabe and contrasting Toyota’s success to Detroit’s woes, but it also discusses efforts at Toyota to slim down machinery, equipment and even paint lines in an effort to be more flexible and cut cost, which gives a better idea of what Watanabe means by kakushin.
What I want to know is, what are they going to do when they run out of “kai” and “kaku” words to rally the troops around?