Kaizen principles

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Kaizen principles
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The Kaizen principles are a guide for everyone who wants to implement Kaizen. Those principles can be implemented in every organization, because they describe how you should approach to every work. You can use those principles even in your private life. As Will Durant (Aristotle critique) wrote: Quality is not an act, it's a habit[1].

The Kaizen Institute defines general principles including[2]:

  • Good processes bring good results
  • Go see for yourself to grasp the current situation
  • Speak with data, manage by facts
  • Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems
  • Work as a team
  • Kaizen is everybody’s business

The important aspects of Kaizen are:

  • What is wrong? not who is wrong?
  • How to eliminate waste (Muda)
  • How to decrease quality costs

After some literature research we can however present more detailed list of Kaizen principles. Some of them with examples and deeper explanation.

Principle 1. Say no to status quo

Old managers teach: if something works, don't touch it. In Kaizen we assume that everything can work better. There no place for methods that cannot be changed. Every aspect of every process can be a subject of improving actions.

Principle 2. If something is wrong, correct it

Many times you see people that don't fix broken things. They say: I can live with that. Don't follow them.

  • If you can live without broken thing - remove it.
  • Otherwise - repair it.
  • If it can work better - improve it.

Principle 3. Accept no excuses and make things happen

Changes have to be implemented. People get used to ways they perform work. It is necessary to convince them that new methods will be better. Increase their motivation, involve them into process of changes, allow "trystorming" (enable workers to try new ways without consequences).

Principle 4. Improve everything continuously

The improvement never ends. After improving one element, others can become not compatible or induce defects. Create a list of elements that require improvement and improve them one by one.

Principle 5. Abolish old, traditional concepts

In every old company you can hear: we have always worked that way. Well, no more. The old methods can survive if they prove their efficiency. Otherwise they should be replaced.

Principle 6. Be economical

Save money through small improvements and spend the saved money on further improvements. In western culture changes have to be substantial in order to be visible. In eastern culture changes sometimes are substantial. But in most cases those are small improvements that lead to small savings. But after many small improvements you'll earn considerable sum of moneny.

Remember that changing technology to the most modern doesn't solve problems. It only replaces old well-known problems with new, yet unknown.

Principle 7. Empower everyone to take part in problems' solving

In Six sigma program the managers have all the wisdom. In Kaizen - everyone can add value to the improvement program. Therefore everyone should be trained and have chance to engage.

Principle 8. Before making decisions, ask "why" five times to get to the root cause

Kaoru Ishikawa has created a Fish diagram, which enables us to find causes of the problems. Genichi Taguchi once said, that in order to find the real causes of the problem you should step into fifth level of analysis. That is the meaning of "ask why five times": your Ishikawa chart should be 5 levels deep.

Principle 9. Get information and opinions from multiple people

No one knows everything. But all together we know everything. Engineers know the technology, accountants know how to calculate savings, marketing specialists know how to sell the improvement to the public. You should create interdisciplinary teams in order to achieve effective teamwork.

Principle 10. Remember that improvement has no limits. Never stop trying to improve

Never say to your employess: ok, we've done it, now we can do it another ten years without any changes. There is entropy in each process. Customers needs change constantly. New technologies are being implemented. Your competitors still try to make better product. The improvement program is a never ending story.


  1. Who said this: Aristotle or Durant?
  2. Kaizen Institute

Author: Slawomir Wawak