True Kaizen is a Journey not a Destination

When beginning your Lean journey, it is important to embrace the philosophy, not just the techniques. A coworker of mine was talking with a plant manager who was just starting to study Lean and he kept asking her, “How many Kaizens should my employees be doing each day? Five? Eight?” She very patiently explained to him that the number of Kaizens is not the goal, the goal is continuous improvement.

When Taiichi Ohno, one of the first Lean thinkers, was removing waste from the Toyota factories, he was relentless in his pursuit of continuous improvement. One of his first goals was to reduce change over time, the amount of time spent switching from producing one type of car to another. When he started, it would take the facility four hours to change over, he set about cutting it down. The workers objected but he was firm and by eliminating wasteful processes, he was able to reduce the change over time in half. The workers cheered but Taiichi Ohno soon came back and said that they needed to reduce the change over time to ten minutes.

You can learn more about Taiichi Ohno in our course the History of Lean. You can watch it on by clicking here or watch it on our youtube channel below:

That is at the root of the Kaizen philosophy. It is not a matter of totaling up the number of Kaizen’s necessary to get from one level of efficiency to the next, it is about taking steady small steps towards improvement. Kaizen is not about one destination that you can accomplish – it is the ongoing journey towards a Lean operation. 

March 27, 2014

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