What is Kaizen? Kaizen Process, Strategy and Examples

What is Kaizen? Kaizen Process, Strategy and Examples-feature image

What do you do when you come across a complex problem? To solve it successfully, you will observe that you always break it into small chunks and work on them.

Well, this idea is one of the main focuses of Kaizen, a Japanese strategy that is useful in improving productivity in both professional and personal life.

What is Kaizen Strategy?

Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates to improvement (continuous) or changes for the better in English. Kaizen Strategy stems from Japanese business philosophy, focuses on gradual growth in productivity through employee engagement and continuous improvement in operations.

Different Kaizen Principles

Kaizen principles deal with process, people, product, and environment. The most essential ones are:

  • Customer value

    Business process improvement aims to ensure customer satisfaction, which is necessary for growth. For enhancing customer experience, it is crucial to understand what exactly they want.

  • Waste removal

    You need to spend your work hours on tasks that create value. For this, eliminating waste of materials, items, or even time is necessary. The target should be of achieving zero waste.

  • Go to Gemba (real place)

    Leaders should focus on areas where actual work is getting done. They should know what is happening across the hierarchy of the organization to take relevant action.

  • Worker empowerment

    Awareness must be created among employees, and they should receive systems and tools for achieving their goals. Leadership should be effective so that Kaizen principles are implemented smoothly.

  • Transparency

    Improvements should be tangibly tracked with tools so that there is clarity within the entire team/organization.

What are the Founding Elements of Kaizen Process?

There are five main elements of Kaizen philosophy:

  • Discipline: Workers should have self-discipline to manage time and achieve better results every time.

  • Teamwork: All employees must contribute towards the common goal of witnessing improvement as a team.

  • Morale: Employees must have a sense of security and belonging resulting from good workplace conditions, career growth options, benefits, and more.

  • Quality Circle: Employees must have the chance to share their ideas, resources, and skills with others.

  • Suggestions for Improvement: Suggestions from everyone should be welcomed, regardless of their position in the company or absurdity.

These founding elements result in eliminating waste (muda) and inefficient processes, 5S framework, and standardization of the work document. The five S of Kaizen framework includes:

kaizen 5s

Seiri – Seiri implies organization or tidiness by removing unnecessary items and categorizing the necessary ones.

Seiton – It focuses on the order and arrangement of items for easy access. This helps in getting work done faster.

Seiso – A clean physical environment also helps in decluttering the mind. So, the workplaces should not be dirty.

Seiketsu – A standard system should be created for the implementation of best practices.

Shitsuke – It is easy to feel demotivated, but you need to be persistent and disciplined. Consistent efforts are necessary for success.

How to Implement Kaizen Strategy for Continuous Improvement in Your Organization?

How to Implement Kaizen Strategy

To implement the Kaizen strategy, you need to understand the problem areas and find ways to ensure continuous and sustainable improvement in business functions and processes.

With small, affordable, and low-risk improvements, you can witness remarkable improvements. Steps for implementing Kaizen Strategy are:

  • Create Awareness

    When you newly introduce a concept, employee awareness is necessary to make it work. The same is true for Kaizen. Make your team members understand how the Kaizen strategy would be applied.

  • Meet prior conditions

    The employees must have an open mind towards improvement and constant analysis. Both the managers and employees must value this approach for it to be successful.

    They should also respect each other’s opinions. While providing constructive criticism, keep in mind that the employee does not feel attacked.

  • Apply incremental change

    Instead of implementing large, drastic changes at once, apply small changes every day to get crucial cumulative results. Being consistent will deliver effective outcomes. For example, instead of changing the product prices at once, the ecommerce giant Amazon makes changes on an hourly or daily basis. The product prices change 2.5 million times a day based on consumer data and buying patterns.

  • Take regular feedback

    Asking for feedback and an accurate response will enable you to change your course if you are going in the wrong direction. Filter the feedback to benefit from useful contributions. It will be easier to make corrections since the changes are small.

  • Waste elimination

    Waste removal in Kaizen focuses on constant evaluation to decrease unnecessary or tedious activities. This includes minimizing overproduction, excess processing, defective products, transportation or other wasted time, underutilized talent, and so on. This helps in using more time and resources for improvement.

  • Collaborate to improve processes and solve problems

    Brainstorm potential solutions with team members to any underlying issue. Take into consideration everyone’s point of view.

    Work on minimizing and optimizing resources and time to achieve the best innovative outcomes. As your team sees the impact of the Kaizen strategy, everyone will be keen to adopt it for future processes.

Impact of Kaizen Method on Performance Management

Kaizen method enables employees to deliver their best through the following ways:

  • Detailed and clear goals

    Kaizen involves structured and targeted plans. Teams create a roadmap of their desired results. Consensus is necessary before proceeding with the improvements in current processes to solve the root problem. Clear targets help channel the energy on relevant activities and prevent time waste so that everything takes place in an organized manner.

  • Better engagement

    Regardless of their position in the team, all employees participate in decision-making and monitoring of their performance. Employees are more active and engaged in achieving simple goals resulting in high morale and job satisfaction. When everyone makes rules for their efficient performance, it helps incorporate self-discipline (Gemba). Minute changes in a person’s routine have a massive impact.

  • Review & feedback

    Since every employee is given a chance to contribute. So, the feedback from everyone is valuable. By promoting curiosity and questions, there are higher chances of removing obstacles in growth permanently.

  • Improvement

    There are two main cycles for continuous improvement- PDCA and SDCA. PDCA or plan-do-check-act is the improving cycle, while SDCA or standardize-do-check-act is the standardizing cycle. The cycles go in the loop continuously to achieve small yet positive changes in areas like cost, quality, and product distribution.

  • Recognition

    The smart approach of employees towards work results in higher productivity and better quality. With Kaizen, there is constant performance monitoring which enables managers to appreciate the ones performing well. This helps in ensuring that employees keep up their efforts in the future.

How Does Kaizen Strategy Ensure Performance Management?

Kaizen is different from the Western philosophy of huge innovations and result-oriented goals. Improvement processes like Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma resulted from this strategy. This article discusses how Kaizen can impact performance management and business process improvement.

Use Cases of Kaizen Examples for Performance Improvement

Kaizen has been implemented by several companies globally for total quality management and performance improvement. Examples of the success of Kaizen strategy across different organizations are:

Toyota Motor Manufacturing

Kaizen Examples for Performance Improvement

In the 1990s, Japan-based Toyota Motor Corporation, an automobile giant, started facing an acute labor shortage. This overburdened the existing workers. There was a sudden increase in the annual working hours, which consequently reduced productivity.

Moreover, the demand for high wage jobs increased during that era, resulting in a low worker retention rate.

The reason was the growing number of aged people due to low birth rates who avoided heavy manufacturing work. Additionally, the dependency on labor rose due to an increase in global demand for automobiles.

The company decided to solve this problem by hiring temporary workers. However, they did not have adequate training.

Finally, the company adopted the Kaizen strategy for upscaling their employees and incentivizing their skills. Skill gaps were identified, and training programs were implemented to enhance the abilities of the existing manpower.

Such learning & development programs, along with certifications, motivated the employees at Toyota Motor to work enthusiastically towards achieving quality deliverables. The assessment module also helped is reducing the attrition rate.

Over the years, continual improvements and standardization resulted in a productivity boost. By 2012, the company sets a record for being the first automobile company to manufacture over 10 million vehicles per year.

Tata Steel

Tata Steel, a steel supplier and manufacturer, wanted to deliver orders faster and improve the quality of their output in the UK. The company decided to go with the Kaizen methodology. The aim was to focus on understanding customers and reducing the wait time.

The company adopted various Kaizen initiatives practised globally. Along with a systematic approach to planning, performance was maintained through variability measurement on a daily basis.

For involving the workforce to the bottom level, improvement groups and quality circles were started. ISO was implemented for standardization.

The result was a decrease in rework time and timely delivery of high-quality products to customers, boosting their satisfaction. For the new employees, the company creates awareness about the strategies during induction itself. It also offers certification programs for the same.

How Can Performance Management Software Help Implement Kaizen Strategy?

Whether you are a small business or large organization, following all the steps for Kaizen strategy implementation from start to finish can be a daunting task.

The success of implementation depends on how effectively you track the progress of employees and process improvement. This is necessary to find ways to improve further in a holistic manner and meet organizational goals.

This depends on the approach you use to solve this issue. What happens when you go with pen and paper approach? When teams work manually, the process of tracking and analyzing performance consistently is slow and prone to biases.

A manual approach goes against the Kaizen strategy itself of effective time management for waste elimination. Biased data metrics are ineffective in identifying the root problems and will result in failure of the strategy. Hence, the risk of going with manual performance need not be taken in an era where automation is available.

An automated performance management solution can be an effective tool to streamline your implementation process. Performance management software enables HR managers to:

  • Set goals and develop plans: A performance management software stores past performance history. It helps in effective setting and management of goals via clearly defined KPIs, KRAs, and competencies, among others. All plans, potential needs, opportunities, and more are captured in one location.

  • Track performance: As performance data is stored in one location, it is easy to gain insights into underperformers and make relevant decisions on time. You get detailed reports on the employee performance and impact of incremental changes.

  • Gain 360-degree feedback: Every employee gets a 360-degree feedback from their colleagues, juniors, reporting managers, and members of other teams based on his/her performance in real time. The scoring parameters are decided by the organization based on the tasks allotted to the employee in the Kaizen strategy implementation.

Performance management software provides necessary metrics like objective key results (OKRs) to help understand how further improvements can be made at an organizational and individual level.

It also ensures transparent communication between managers and employees which improves employee satisfaction. This software is ideal for the success of Kaizen methodology.


Applying a Kaizen strategy can help your business achieve targets with a much higher success rate, improve employee productivity, and increase customer satisfaction.

If you want your business to grow, start looking for issues in your organization that can be solved with Kaizen now!


  1. What are the 5S of Kaizen?

    Kaizen cornerstones are 5 Japanese words starting with S- Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in Order), Seiso (Cleanliness/ Shining), Seiketsu (Standardize), Shitsuke (Sustaining).

  2. How can Kaizen techniques benefit a business?

    Businesses can implement process improvements successfully and increase their efficiency. With effective time management and improved quality of solutions, businesses gain huge profits.

  3. What are the four main Kaizen principles?

    The main Kaizen principles focus on implementation commitment, leadership and worker empowerment, improvement feedback, and 5S principles with safety protocols.

  4. What are the benefits of using Kaizen?

    Kaizen benefits are better cross-functional teamwork, leadership growth, improved documentation for future developments, increased safety, waste mitigation, efficiency boost, higher customer and employee satisfaction, etc.

  5. What are the different types of Kaizen?

    Different types of Kaizen are- point Kaizen (quick without much planning), system Kaizen (strategic planning for system-level issues), and Line Kaizen (Plane and Cube).

Related Categories: Productivity Software | Utility Software | Project Management Software | Workflow Management Software | Task Management Software

Published On: November 8, 2021

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