Tips for Lean Managers

Zero Equals Seven in the Kaizen Mind

By Jon Miller Updated on April 23rd, 2021

Taiichi Ohno taught us that even when we think “there is no waste here” you can find at least 7 types of waste. He was known to carry a piece of chalk around and draw circles around managers who could not see these wastes. Woe be to the manager who stepped out of the circle before Mr. Ohno came back to check.

Chihiro Nakao, an Ohno disciple, founder of Shingijutsu Co. Ltd. and the sensei responsible for coining the term “3P” for Production Preparation Process, taught us that even when you think “no way” there are at least 7 ways. The exercise in production preparation to brainstorm, evaluate and simulate 7 process alternatives for every step is the centerpiece of 3P, and very tough to do when you already know where to look in the machine tool catalog to find a ready solution.

Last week Mike Wroblewski taught us that there are at least 7 more ways you can achieve a healing workplace. What an amazing list (rocking chairs! puzzles! name tags!) full of great ideas. I can already feel our office manager cringing…

But seriously, there is a pattern here. Whenever we feel like we have exhausted all of our options, or we can’t think of any more improvement ideas, or when the list seems complete, we should remember that zero equals seven in the kaizen mind. Your wits don’t work until you feel the squeeze, but when you do, you can squeeze out another seven ideas.

  1. Jim

    May 16, 2007 - 11:39 am

    Awesome point Jon… People get so comfortable with the status quo that’s often the time really start evaluating things and move ahead with improvement.

  2. japankaizen

    May 25, 2007 - 1:01 pm

    Yea, but don’t forget with for the time being concept. I think for some extents, we don’t need to pursue perfect results, as we could be stuck in it and forgot the main objectives.
    Jarot, a new kaizenhunter 🙂

  3. Jon

    May 25, 2007 - 6:31 pm

    Hi Jarot. You’re right. The main objective of kaizen is not perfect results but better results, every day. Like you said, “Let’s dig kaizen” and you can approach perfection.

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