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Types of Kaizen


Have you thought about the types of Kaizen? I thought about the four categories.

I am not trying to make data. I am not thinking about which is better or not. This is just a reflection on the Kaizen system.



I categorized Kaizen into four categories, mainly based on attitude and objective.

1. Occurrence

This is a type of Kaizen that happens after a problem occurs. Since the practitioner of Kaizen can't select what to improve, the attitude is reactive. It is crucial. Otherwise, somebody has to deal with the problem repeatedly.


2. Assignment

The management gives a target or topic to improve. If you don't work on these, your organization is not delivering the results that the management needs.


3. Free

The practitioner comes up with a Kaizen and executes it. Random ideas, but it is free (obviously respecting other standards).


4. Challenge

There is an idea that has never been done. Challenging that makes sense from TPS. There is no need to work on that topic from the management yet. But start trying. This happens at individual & organizational levels.


I know that it is not possible to categorize strictly into these. It is a way to reflect on the activity.

For a manager, many Kaizen in assignments might look good. Yet, suppose that is the only Kaizen allowed. In that case, these might make the organization very command and control-like, in which people waits for the manager's orders for Kaizen.


If we have too much of an occurrence, that might be that the original design of the process was terrible. Too little might mean the process hides problems, which is even worse.


Free is lovely, especially in the early stages of a career. Get comfortable trying your ideas. Don't get intimidated. But this doesn't guarantee the results. A good coach is someone with whom the student feels ownership yet navigates toward the outcome.


Challenge is always necessary yet often forgotten. A good manager always has one or two challenges that they keep inside their portfolio of Kaizen. It's fun. Yet, we can't forget other duties.


Again, I am not trying to divide the Kaizen into these categories rigidly. I am not defining a ratio. The balance is essential for reflection.

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