Continuous improvement or radical change?

Continuous improvement is a toolbox and set of methodologies. In this article, I present two ways of working, two philosophies, two approaches to improve processes: Kaizen and Kaikaku. The two approaches being complementary, the graph below shows how they help to go further in the improvement process.

Kaizen and Kaikaku are, of course, Japanese terms, Kaizen means “continuous improvement”, Kaikaku means “radical change”. We understand very quickly what opposes these two terms. Kaikaku is a word less used than Kaizen, sometimes referred to as Blitz (from the German “flash”) or Kaizen workshop, but the principles are the same as Kaikaku.

Kaizen: one step at a time

Kaizen is a slow and progressive approach. I often call it the small step method. We move on, quietly, and we improve daily. This approach is intended, it brings good results, but takes more time to get there. It also occupies fewer resources. This is how a culture of continuous improvement can grow and stay. In general, the improvement strategy is defined by the management according to the expectations of the customers and the analysis of the internal difficulties (I will come back to this in a future article). The ingredients of the success of a Kaizen approach, and thus the obtaining of results over time, are:

  • Managers’ involvement in the process,
  • presence of a resource (even part-time) to ensure process monitoring
  • everyone’s involvement in the process, by empowering each one in the organization.

Kaikaku: dramatic changes

On the contrary, Kaikaku is an approach based on rupture, radical change. It is an approach that has a very specific mandate: it is limited to only one type of product, equipment or a well-identified problem. Kaikaku is short, since it must be radical. It usually lasts less than a week. A team is gathered around the problem and the whole approach is realized and finalized in a very short time. External process resources are often used to help make changes in a very short time. It is an approach that is highly appreciated, because although it requires great effort, it produces results quickly.

With a good team, a Kaikaku will give good results, but for the company to win, the Kaikaku must be aligned with the strategic goals. Kaikaku can cause stress because it creates a break, so it is important to target the projects carried out using this philosophy.

  • Managers’ involvement in the process,
  • presence of a resource (even part-time) to ensure process monitoring
  • everyone’s involvement in the process, by empowering each one in the organization.
Homme allumetet qui doit choisir entre monter marche à marche ou faire un grand saut

Kaizen helps to deploy and maintain the culture of continuous improvement on a daily basis.
Kaikaku causes a break and comes to quickly advance a subject.

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