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Kaizen is a management philosophy with roots in both US and Japanese management practices. Two renowned American statisticians and quality experts, W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran, spent several years helping the Japanese rebuild their manufacturing industry after World War II by educating them in statistical quality control and quality management techniques. The Japanese took this education to heart and went on to develop the concept of total quality management, commonly known as TQM. The philosophy of TQM goes beyond quality on the shop floor to embrace quality throughout the entire enterprise, including manufacturing, engineering, marketing, administration, sales, after-sales support, procurement, and, most importantly, business planning. The foundation for their TQM strategy was a concept called kaizen.

Kaizen comes from two words: kai, which means ???to change,??? and zen, which means ???good or for the better.??? Together, the words mean continuous change for the better, which many readers will recognize as continuous improvement. The philosophy of kaizen is straightforward. It requires that everyone in the organization be involved in the improvement process-executives, management, supervisors, and workers. This process has been immortalized in Deming???s plan-do-check-act cycle of continuous improvement, which is the backbone of many quality systems in use today.

The best way to understand kaizen is to compare it to traditional, Western management practice. Kaizen is based on the concept of process-oriented thinking. If you want to improve performance, you must improve the process. Process thinking has two parts: performance improvement and performance maintenance (maintaining the improvement in perpetuity). Companies maintain standards of performance through education, training, and discipline.Discipline means establishing policies, procedures, and specific work instructions for each process and educating all employees involved in the process.>

The incremental changes associated with process-oriented thinking don???t involve much risk, but the improvements are smaller and more discreet than with other techniques. In fact, in companies that are steeped in the kaizen philosophy, many of the improvements will go unnoticed to casual observers. However, over the long run, kaizen has proven to be as effective as using ???breakthrough??? initiatives to improve performance.

It comes from the Japanese words ???Kai??? meaning school and ???Zen??? meaning wisdom.

Kaizen is a system that involves every employee ??? from upper management to the cleaning crew. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. Kaizen is a system of improvement that in Japan includes both home life as well as business improvements. It even includes social activities. It is a concept that is applied in every aspect of a person???s life. In Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, 60 to 70 suggestions per employee, per year are written down, shared and implemented. In most cases these are not ideas for major changes also not a suggestion system.
In contrast to the usual emphasis on revolutionary, innovative change on an occasional basis, Kaizen looks for uninterrupted, ongoing incremental change Kaizen focuses on implementation of improvement however little it may be on a regular basis which would result in improving productivity, safety and effectiveness, and reducing waste.

Improvements are not limited to a specific functional area such as production or marketing but spans across the entire organization. The Kaizen philosophy is to ???do it better, make it better, and improve it even if it ain???t broke, because if we don???t, we can???t compete with those who do.??? Contrary to the western philosophy, ???if it ain???t broke, don???t fix it???, the Kaizen philosophy is that everything, even it isn???t broke, can be improved.

It involves the creation of a culture of sustained continuous improvement. When applied to the workplace Kaizen means continuing improvement involving everyone ??? managers and workers alike.??? the operative phrase here is ???without large capital investments???. Instead of sinking more money in buying machinery or running them for a longer duration, Kaizen veers an organization towards paying attention to small but significant Kaizen encompasses many of the successful Japanese business concepts such as, Quality circles, automation, suggestion systems, just-in-time delivery, Kanban and 5S are all included within the Kaizen system.

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