Kaizen (改善, "improvement") is a concept referring to business activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Kaizen also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain. It has been applied in healthcare, psychotherapy, life coaching, government, and banking.
By improving standardized programs and processes, kaizen aims to eliminate waste and redundancies (lean manufacturing). Kaizen was first practiced in Japanese businesses after World War II, influenced in part by American business and quality-management teachers, and most notably as part of The Toyota Way. It has since spread throughout the world and has been applied to environments outside business and productivity.
- Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning, roughly, continuous improvement. It is one of a batch of oriental ideas seized upon by western companies in the 1980s when it was thought that Japan was the source of most wisdom about management.
- Kaizen, The Economist (14 Apr 2009)
- In productivity circles the term means... every aspect of an organization should, at all times, strive to do what it does better. The philosophy first appeared when several Japanese businesses, shortly after World War II, embraced the idea that doing things the way they've always been done was a bad idea, especially when better options were available that would make them more competitive. "Kaizen" came to be synonymous with company-wide efforts to improve upon and intelligently streamline business practices and manufacturing methods while simultaneously respecting the product, craft, or the people involved with making it.
- Alan Henry in Get Better at Getting Better: The Kaizen Productivity Philosophy, LifeHacker (17 December 2014)
- Kaizen means improvement. Moreover, it means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. When applied to the workplace... [it] means continuing improvement involving everyone – managers and workers alike.