Kaizen Boards in Practice

Recently, I was published in The Bellingham Business Journal as part of their Business Toolkit feature.  If you haven’t had a chance yet, click the link and see how I laid out the case for Kaizen as the catalyst for employee engagement.

One of the tools that I mention in the article is a Kaizen Board. From the article:

Build a Kaizen Board
Kaizen is a Lean manufacturing term for “continuous improvement.” A Kaizen board is a place where you can display all the ideas your employees generate. Ask each employee to submit something once a month. That’s not a hard ask. One idea every 30 days. Hang these ideas up on the Kaizen board so they can be applauded and implemented.

Kaizen Boards can come in all shapes and sizes. You can list problems on a giant sheet and allow everyone to brainstorm solutions or you can use forms with “Before and After” pictures. The important part is that they are public, accessible and transparent. You can learn about how to use a Kaizen Board in our visual management series here.

With a Kaizen Board, you can harness the creative talents of everyone at your organization by bringing problems out of the shadows. Often when there are defects or mistakes, our first instincts are to blame the person responsible, or worse, sweep it under the rug and pretend like it didn’t happen. This is exactly the wrong approach, you want to bring each of these incidents out into the open and turn them into learning experiences, since they are opportunities for process improvement.

Tips for your Kaizen Display: A good rule of thumb is; can someone read a Kaizen, as displayed on the board, and understand the problem and potential solutions in under a minute or two? Can someone from a completely different department read the display and understand the problem enough to suggest solutions? Consider including a space for pictures or illustration of the Kaizen, or if the defective product is small enough, attach it to the board.

Below are some examples of Kaizen Boards (although the first one is technically a “Kaizen Newspaper”).

data saving

With a Kaizen Newspaper, anyone can identify problems, propose solutions and easily identify how much progress has been made on these issues.



Pictures can help to illustrate a problem, solution or just provide background to help the reader grasp the issue.



This Kaizen board doesn’t display problems or defect but rather tracks to the number of Kaizen’s submitted from each employee. At this facility, there is an expectation that each employee submits one idea per month – when they do, they get a star!

January 9, 2014

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