Kaizen (pronounced ki-zen) is the Japanese word for continuous
improvement. As we use the term, it is a method that strives toward
perfection by eliminating waste. It eliminates waste by empowering
people with tools and a methodology for uncovering improvement
opportunities and making change. Kaizen understands waste to be
any activity that is not value-adding from the perspective of the
customer. By value-adding, we mean any work done right the first
time that materially changes a product or service in ways for which
a well-informed and reasonable customer is willing to pay.
Importance of Kaizen
Waste consumes resourcesboth human and materialpointlessly.
People implementing wasteful processes are themselves wasted. They
are robbed of the satisfaction of engaging in meaningful tasks
that produce outputs customers value. Moreover, they are degraded
as humans because engaging in activities that are not meaningful
treats their energies and earnest efforts as commodities of little
value. When constrained to execute these imperfect processes without
the opportunity to make them better, people are denied the exercise
of their capacity to learn and improve and thereby grow to the
full measure of their capabilities. As for material resources,
the financial and material investments in enterprise are prevented
from achieving the greatest returns possible.
The application of Kaizen reverses the consequences of waste.
Kaizen events have repeatedly demonstrated that the level of value-adding
activity in unimproved, labor-intensive work processes is less
than 5%or, put another way, that only 5% of the resources
invested in such work processes leverage return to owners, while
a full 95% is squandered. Kaizen teaches people to see and eliminate
this waste. By empowering people to uncover improvement opportunities
and make change, Kaizen respects their humanity and allows them
to apply their most valuable qualities toward making the enterprise
successful. Kaizen enables people to grow to the full measure of
their capabilities, enriching their own personal and professional
lives while enhancing the human capital of the business. Through
progressive and continuous elimination of waste, Kaizen lets performers
continually increase the amount of the material resources that
leverage payback and not simply payout.
Why a Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard ?
To date, the Kaizen process has not been systematized or well
documented. Although there are many books on Kaizen, their messages
are largely about the philosophy of Kaizen or principles to guide
one's thinking either about Kaizen or during the performance of
Kaizen. Previous books have not provided a rigorous, streamlined
process for executing Kaizen nor the detailed knowledge needed
to ensure excellent performance. Ironically, this absence of a
systematic and documented process stands in opposition to continuous
improvement. Without a defined work process as a standard, there
is no reference for learning and no opportunity to enhance performance.
In other words, Kaizen, as currently practiced, offers no opportunity
to Kaizen itself.
The Kaizen Desk Reference Standard redresses this deficiency
by providing a step-by-step process with detailed guidance and
tailored tools to support the execution of Kaizen. It provides
workers the opportunity to study and learn Kaizen on their own
and supplies an aid for doing Kaizen. To achieve these ends, the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard includes:
- a work process map for executing Kaizen;
- detailed task guidance explaining how to execute each component
of the process including milestones, tasks, and steps and the
rules to apply in making decisions along the way; and
- tools such as checklists, spreadsheets, forms, announcements,
and role descriptions to help in defining the scope of an event,
preparing to execute it, conducting the event including documenting
what was done and analyzing the results it produced, and following
up to ensure that the process improvements make sustained contributions
to the business.
the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard
The Kaizen Desk Reference Standard is organized into the
- Introduction - explains the purpose of the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard, its organization, and how to use
it for support in leading a Kaizen event.
- Overview of Kaizen - presents an overview
of the goal of Kaizen and our system for accomplishing this goal.
- Kaizen in Action - describes a
Kaizen event conducted according to the Kaizen Desk Reference
- Milestone A. Document a Scope for the Kaizen Event -
guides in gathering information that defines the boundaries of
and reasons for performing a Kaizen event.
- Milestone B. Analyze Whether to Conduct the Kaizen Event -
explains how to evaluate whether holding the Kaizen event is
likely to produce the business benefits sought by the people
requesting the event.
- Milestone C. Prepare for the Kaizen Event - guides in
readying the people, setting, and resources needed to conduct
the Kaizen event.
- Milestone D. Perform the Kaizen Event - tells how to
execute the Kaizen event in a manner that energizes people and
eliminates waste in the target work process.
- Milestone E. Institutionalize the Process Improvements -
guides in ensuring that work process
or workplace improvements provide ongoing and maximum benefits
for the business.
- Customizing the Kaizen Process - advises about tailoring
the Kaizen process to meet special requirements including accelerating
the process, addressing office applications, and planning for
multiple Kaizen events within the same business.
- Ending Note: Of Sanctity and Sacrilege - provides
a cautionary note to those who may desire the monetary gains
Kaizen produces but not the added capability and desire of people
to participate in conducting the business.
- Glossary - defines specialized words used in the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard.
- User Evaluation and Feedback Form - provides a questionnaire
that requests your feedback about the Kaizen Desk Reference
Standard in our effort to continuously improve its effectiveness.
How to Use the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard
You can use the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard to support
you both personally and professionally. Personally, use it as a
learning resource to develop your ability to improve work processes
and contribute to a business's success. Professionally, use this
book as a real-time resource to guide you in leading Kaizen events
and as a baseline for improving the Kaizen process.
To use the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard as a learning
resource, begin by building a mental image of what Kaizen is and
how it is executed. Strengthen this image by reflecting on it and
representing it on paper for yourself. Use the Overview of Kaizen unit
to build your image. Add flesh to your mental image by reading
the unit Kaizen in Action. Check whether the example of
Kaizen it describes matches the image of Kaizen in your mind.
If you prefer building your understanding of a new skill by first
seeing it performed, then reverse this process. Read the unit Kaizen
in Action first and then build your mental image. Use the Overview
of Kaizen unit to test your image of Kaizen.
In either case, cycle between these two units until you have a
sure sense of what Kaizen is about. Use the Glossary to
explain terms with which you are unfamiliar.
Once you are satisfied with your internal image of Kaizen, create
a schedule for study that systematically takes you through this
entire book one unit at a time. Proceed through the Kaizen Desk
Reference Standard in accordance with your schedule. Apply
the following method to fill out your mental framework with the
detailed knowledge you uncover. This strategy allows you to build
your learning incrementally and root it deeply in your mind.
- Read the guidance provided in the selected Kaizen Desk Reference
Standard unit. Continue to use the Glossary to explain
terms with which you are unfamiliar.
- Try applying the guidance to a work process with which you
are highly familiar.
Tip As you study, imagine doing the
Kaizen process on your chosen work process. For example, when
you study Milestone A. Document a Scope for the Kaizen Event,
first assume the role of the manager of the work process and
provide the information needed to produce the scope document.
Then assume the role of the Kaizen leader who must apply the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard guidance for Milestone A and for
each remaining milestone.
- Write out any questions, issues, or problems you detected and
search back in the standard for additional guidance that may
help resolve your concerns.
- Discuss the guidance and unresolved questions or concerns with
someone who is qualified in leading a Kaizen event using the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard.
Tip If you do not have access to a
qualified Kaizen leader, consider enrolling in our training program
for preparing Kaizen leaders. See details at our website, http://www.vitalentusa.com.
Bring your questions and concerns to the training so that we
can personalize our instruction to address your particular needs.
For help with specific issues, use the Kaizen Forum provided
at our website. Post your questions to the forum and benefit
from the responses offered by other Kaizen practitioners.
Professionally, you will apply Kaizen in two contexts. The first
is when you are asked to resolve a deficiency in the operating
results of a particular work process (e.g., inadequate throughput,
excessive unit cost, untimely delivery of outputs). This type of
request is what usually triggers the first use of Kaizen in a work
process. The second context is when you will lead return events
on the same work process. This recycling of Kaizen to drive continuous
improvement is typically supported by managers once they have had
an opportunity to see Kaizen in action. It then becomes clear how
Kaizen can reveal new opportunities for improvement even when the
current operating results seem satisfactory.
The Kaizen Desk Reference Standard is a real-time resource
to guide you in leading Kaizen events under either of these circumstances.
It contains knowledge that will assist you in describing an initial
request to remedy problematic operating performance as well as
knowledge that enables you to detect opportunities for improvement
even when the owners of a work process are satisfied with current
To use the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard as a real-time
performance aid, consult the book prior to beginning each component
of the Kaizen process. Use the review to refresh your understanding
of what you need to do and what principles you should keep in mind
as you make decisions. Next, consult the book while executing the
component on an as-needed basis. The electronic version is especially
handy for this purpose, as you can rapidly access guidance using
the locator aids embedded in it (see below). Finally, consult the
book after you complete each component to verify that you accomplished
it correctly. Use the Check Steps section at the end of each milestone,
task, and step guidance as a quick way to verify that you performed
the component correctly and the Output section to ensure that you
generated each required product.
You can also use the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard as a
baseline solution for executing Kaizen. At the end of each event,
make time to reflect on the process and outcomes you produced by
applying the knowledge in this baseline process. Extract learning
about yourself and the method and develop ways to elevate your execution
of Kaizen along with any insights into how to make the Kaizen process
better. Please share those ideas with us using the feedback mechanism
described below (page 7). Consider using our Status, Reason,
Learning, Direction (SRLD™) product to support
your learning efforts. Information about SRLD™
is available at our website. Also consider becoming a member of
our website and using our Kaizen Forum to benefit from the ideas
and learning of other Kaizen leaders.
To use the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard for either personal
or professional purposes requires that you understand how to navigate
it to locate the knowledge you need.
The Kaizen Desk Reference Standard has several locator
aids to assist you in finding specific information. These include:
- a table of contents,
- a preview page marking the beginning of each unit, and
- an index of topics at the end of the book.
The electronic version of the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard includes
all the locator features of the print version with some additions.
In the electronic version, you can click on "buttons" (see Exhibit
1, next page, for examples) to move to the referenced text. The
right side of the table of contents, for example, has each listing
set as a button. Similarly, each listing in the index has an associated
button so you can quickly jump to the guidance identified. There
are buttons located throughout the electronic version of the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard to make access to guidance rapid and
In addition, you may find any word or topic in the electronic
version of the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard by pressing
CTRL+F and entering it into the pop-up form that appears. You may
search for the exact word you enter or similar words based on the
option you select. Adobe Acrobat Reader® will locate the first
instance of a match. You may proceed to subsequent instances by
Kaizen Tool Kit
The Kaizen Tool Kit brings together, in electronic format, many
of the forms and other materials referenced in the Kaizen Desk
Reference Standard. The Kaizen Tool Kit is on the CD-ROM that
accompanies the print edition of the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard or
on the CD-ROM containing the electronic edition. Insert the CD-ROM
into your computer drive, and the Kaizen Tool Kit installation
program will open automatically. If it does not, locate the autorun.exe
file on the CD, then double click on the file. This action will
initiate the installation of the Kaizen Tool Kit. You will need
to have Adobe Acrobat Reader® 4.0 or higher installed on your
computer. An installation copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader® 5.0
is provided on your CD-ROM1 and
it will be installed for you, if you give permission. You also
need Microsoft Word 2000® and Microsoft Excel 2000® to
use the items in the Tool Kit. Tool Kit materials are listed in
the beginning of each unit of the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard in
the Materials, Tools, and Other Resources section. Once the installation
is completed, a shortcut icon will appear on your desktop. Clicking
on this icon will open the Kaizen Tool Kit and provide you access
to its contents.
Improving the Kaizen
Desk Reference Standard
Vital Enterprises is committed to continuously improving the contents
and presentation of this Kaizen Desk Reference Standard.
To this end, we have included a feedback questionnaire at the end
of this book; an electronic version of the form is provided in
the Kaizen Tool Kit. Please complete the electronic questionnaire
and provide your ideas on how this book may be improved to serve
you better. Print and mail the questionnaire or fax your feedback
to: Raphael L. Vitalo, Ph.D., Vital Enterprises, One Winning Way, Hope, Maine 04847 (Fax: 207-763-3710). As an alternative,
visit our website and complete the feedback form online. By providing
feedback on the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard online,
you will have the opportunity to become a member of our website
and obtain access to our Kaizen Forum and other services dedicated
to supporting new learning by users of the Kaizen Desk Reference
Standard. For more details about these services, see
1 Adobe Acrobat
Reader is also available free of charge at http://www.adobe.com.