Sustainable Growth:

Continuous Improvement Firm


The Japanese Strategy of Continuous Improvement


Vadim Kotelnikov personal logo Vadim Kotelnikov

Founder, Ten3 Business e-Coach Inspiration and Innovation Unlimited!




"Japanese management practices succeed simply because they are good management practices.
This success has little to do with
cultural factors. And the lack of cultural bias means that
these practices can be – and are – just as successfully employed elsewhere."
~ Masaaki Imai  



Kaizen Contiuous Improvement Firm Top Management Innovation Kaizen Innovation Kaizen Sustainable Competitive Advantage of US and Japanese Firms Continuous Improvement Firm Kaizen - Japanese Continuous Improvement Strategy

The Key Kaizen Practices

Continuous Improvement Culture

Production Process

Two Parts of Kaizen Management

  1. Cross-functional Management

  2. Policy Deployment

7 Goals of the Japanese Suggestion System

  1. Making the job easier

  2. Removing drudgery from the job

  3. Removing nuisance from the job

  4. Making the job safer

  5. Making the job more productive

  6. Improving product quality

  7. Saving time and cost... More

Quick and Easy Kaizen

3 Key Characteristics

  1. Permanent method changes. Change the method. Once the change is made, you can’t go back to the old way of doing things... More

Kaizen and Kaikaku

  • Kaizen is evolutionary, focused on incremental improvements.

  • Kaikaku is revolutionary, focused on radical improvements

10 Kaikaku Commandments

Kaizen Culture

8 Elements

Kaizen Mindset

Kaizen Implementation Principles

Kaizen Strategy: 7 Conditions for Successful Implementation

Quick and Easy Kaizen (Mini-Kaizen)

Kaizen and Kaikaku

Kaizen and Innovation

Continuous Improvement Firm (CIF)

3 Basic Principles of Continuous Improvement

Japanese-style Suggestion System

Glossary of Kaizen and Lean Production Terms

Using 80/20 Principle

Lean Production

3 Broad Types of Waste

7 Wastes


Just-in-Time (JIT)

Toyota Problem Solving Techniques

Efficiency Improvement

Toyota Problem Solving Techniques

5-Why Technique

Manufacturing Strategies Used by US and Japanese Companies

Bunsha: A Japanese Spin Off Concept for Business Growth

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Kaizen and Total Quality Management (TQM)

TQM Practices: Japan vs. the West

Areas Targeted by TQM in Japan

14 TQM Slogans at Pentel, Japan

Process-managed Enterprise

Process Thinking

Best Practices

Kaizen Implementation: International Examples

Toyota Production System (TPS)

Canon Production System (CPS)

Fidelity Investments: Practicing Kaizen

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen means "improvement". Kaizen strategy calls for never-ending efforts for improvement involving everyone in the organization – managers and workers alike.

Kaizen and Management

Management has two major components:

1. maintenance, and

2. improvement.

The objective of the maintenance function is to maintain current technological, managerial, and operating standards. The improvement function is aimed at improving current standards.

Under the maintenance function, the management must first establish policies, rules, directives and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and then work towards ensuring that everybody follows SOP. The latter is achieved through a combination of discipline and human resource development measures.

Under the improvement function, management works continuously towards revising the current standards, once they have been mastered, and establishing higher ones. Improvement can be broken down between innovation and Kaizen. Innovation involves a drastic improvement in the existing process and requires large investments. Kaizen signifies small improvements as a result of coordinated continuous efforts by all employees.

Kaizen and Corporate Culture

Kaizen is an integral part of corporate culture of a Continuous Improvement Firm (CIF). It requires continuous both conscious and sub-conscious thinking about improvements from everyone. Nurturing and effectively integrating Kaizen into corporate culture is not easy. It requires a sustained effort. But, as Toyota has demonstrated, it offers a more sustained competitive advantage... More

Kaizen and Lean Manufacturing

Lean Enterprise: 13 Tips

Kaizen is the heart of Lean Manufacturing (also known as the Toyota Production System). Toyota states: "...based on the concept of continuous improvement, or Kaizen, every Toyota team member is empowered with the ability to improve their work environment. This includes everything from quality and safety to the environment and productivity. Improvements and suggestions by team members are the cornerstone of Toyota's success."

The Toyota Way: 14 Principles

Process-Oriented Thinking vs. Result-Oriented Thinking

Kaizen concentrates at improving the process rather than at achieving certain results. Such managerial attitudes and process thinking make a major difference in how an organization masters change and achieves improvements.

Balanced Organization: 5 Basic Elements

Performance Management (Water):

Employee Empowerment: the Suggestion System

The suggestion system is an integral part of an established management system that aims at involving employees in Kaizen. The number of worker's suggestions is regarded as an important criteria in reviewing the performance of the worker's supervisor and the manager of the supervisor.

The Japanese management encourages employees to generate a great number of suggestions and works hard to consider and implement these suggestions, often incorporating them into the overall Kaizen strategy. Management also gives due recognition to employee's efforts for improvement. An important aspect of the suggestion system is that each suggestion, once implemented, leads to an upgraded standard. Quality control (QC) circles can be viewed as a group-oriented suggestion system for making improvements. QC circle is a small group that voluntarily performs quality-control activities in the workplace.

Areas Targeted by TQM in Japan

Total quality control (TQC) involves everyone in the organization and is aimed at improvement of managerial performance at all levels... More

Success Stories Best Business Practices Tôhoku Oki Electric Co.

At Tôhoku Oki Electric Co., the suggestion system is the center of their success and leads all of their improvement efforts. The company gets 570 suggestions per employee per year (app. 1.5 written ideas per employee per workday)... More


  1. Kaizen: The Key To Japan's Competitive Success, Masaaki Imai

  2. Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management, Masaaki Imai

  3. Lean Manufacturing That Works, Bill Carreira

  4. The Toyota Way, Jeffrey Liker

  5. The Lean Manufacturing Pocket Handbook, Kenneth W. Dailey

  6. Kaikaku: The Power and Magic of Lean, Norman Bodek