The Only Type of Kaizen is Daily Kaizen

Last week I was asked to identify the three types of kaizen. People feel the need to classify. Boundaries are useful approximations and should not limit us too much in practice. The three types of kaizen commonly identified are big, medium and small or kaikaku, kaizen event and kaizen suggestion to give their popular names. Toyota has the common three categories of technical kaizen, jishuken and the creative idea suggestion system, but variations abound. Three may be the magic number for describing our universe, but in essence there is really only one type of kaizen: the type you do today.

The amount of preparation, teams, boundaries of the process being changed, and the degree of experimentation needed to find better ways all may differ, but at its root kaizen is persistent continuous improvement built up from small ideas coming from as many people as possible. You. Me. Here. Today. Kaizen.

What things do we do daily? We brush our teeth, sleep, bathe, eat, exercise, pray, play, practice and breathe. Doing anything every single day is hard. We are able to do daily only the most important, the simplest or most satisfying things every day. Kaizen shouldn’t be difficult to do each day, or be boring or feel trivial. The feeling of true kaizen is like waking up feeling great and knowing that it’s another day and another chance to stumble towards perfection.

The pessimist thinks the problem remains half unsolved. The optimist thinks the problem is already half solved. The lean thinker goes to observe whether the countermeasures are addressing their respective root causes or not and asks, “What can we do today?”

1 Comment

  1. Luciano

    January 17, 2011 - 4:14 pm

    Brilliant.
    Some days ago I had a discussion with a friend of mine, who didn’t agree with the “respect for people” lean principle, arguing that people is pressed to think improvemets all the time, making the job unavoidably stressful.
    I think nothing good can come out from stress. And I think nothing bad can come out from kaizen. Continuous improvement should emerge naturally from willingness and happy people. That’s what lean look for.
    Great blog!