woman holding paper with words kaizen history written on it



Often referred to as Kaizen Toyota (which is actually a mislabelling of their Toyota Production System which is a lean manufacturing system derived from Kaizen theory), Kaizen is the Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement. The reason for the Kaizen Toyota link is largely due to the fact that their implementation is one of the most successful to date. Notably, workers at all levels are encouraged to ruthlessly implement waste reduction techniques - up to and including halting all production!

Toyota didn’t invent Kaizen theory, however. The Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) group actually published the first known material on the modern Kaizen theory during their implementation of Training Within Industry (TWI) programs in 1950’s Japan. Their training film named "Improvement in Four Steps" (Kaizen eno Yon Dankai) is often cited as the premier example of this Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement.


Today, Kaizen theory is best explained by its stages of "Plan → Do → Check → Act". Other names for this process include the Deming cycle, PCDA (acronym) or the Shewhart cycle. In plain English, practitioners of Kaizen theory will determine what change is required, make that change, check that it worked and optimise the output.

But PCDA isn’t just used alone in Kaizen theory. It’s usually accompanied by the “5 Whys” method of root cause analysis. Put simply, in the planning stage, asking a string of questions that feed from each other helps a change management team get to the core of the problem or waste. By asking the same question over and over, teams are forced to confront their assumptions about why change is needed until the ‘patient zero’ is identified.


Companies of all sizes are now implementing this Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement for many reasons, but overwhelmingly, because it is one of the few methodologies that yields results during the session; not after. Unlike other popular change theories, Kaizen pinpoints the root causes of waste to maintain quality output - instead of sacrificing deliverables to work around inefficiencies. It also benefits from a programmatic staging that is simple for teams of all seniority to understand rapidly.

male and female avatars representing kaizen toyota

To discuss how Kaizen theory could help your team achieve rapid efficiencies, please email us at info@kaizenconsults.co.uk


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