How a Japanese Concept Can Improve Your Productivity

While kaizen, according to its original Japanese definition, can mean either one-time or continuous improvement, many life-coaches and businesses try to adopt a continuous philosophy that can be implemented for long-term progress. First developed in post-WWII Japan, the philosophy emphasizes productivity while eliminating wasteful actions. Eventually, this improvement concept was adopted by the Toyota Motor Corporation in 2001 as part of their official corporate culture and became known as the Toyota Way.

What is Kaizen?

According to Kaizen News, kaizen means continuous improvement, and it’s a philosophy that is effective at all levels of a business, from its corporate culture down to a single individual. From CEOs to production workers, anybody can practice this philosophy. It can also be applied to processes such as purchasing, operations, manufacturing, and logistics in a variety of industries. Its many benefits include waste reduction, immediate troubleshooting, improved utilization of resources, and better teamwork.

There are multiple forms of this philosophy: point, line, plane and cube. The point system is the most basic improvement. You and your team are only focused on making a single improvement. If something is broken in a production system, you implement a solution to fix the problem. The line system extends the single point improvement down to another point. The solution used can also be used by another department. 

Sometimes, the strategy used in one point can be extended to multiple departments or processes and become a plane system. A cube system is a system where multiple planes of improvement connect in upstream or downstream processes, and each improvement plane affects and is affected by the changes made by other departments in an organization-wide restructure. According to Value Based Management, this philosophy exceeds at eliminating waste and inefficiency. 

Steps of Kaizen

While the steps can be customized to different company cultures, the basic process involves identifying the problem, studying the problem, identifying the root causes, making changes, implementing the changes, and evaluating the changes. In the case of any ambiguity, work is stopped and communication is established between managers and employees to resolve any confusion.


The application of this Japanese concept is an interactive problem-solving process. You and your team need to have a vision of your long-term goals, and actively challenge yourself and your employees to seek to achieve these goals. Since the application of this philosophy is circular, you and your team must continuously return to the beginning of the cycle after evaluating the effects of the previous improvement.

While the application of the Toyota Way can be used in corporate culture, individuals can also use this philosophy as a way to make lifestyle improvements. Proactive and empowering, continuous improvement seeks to align both individuals and companies with long-term goals.

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