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Kaizen Story: No prior mindset

George Dantzig, a great mathematician is known for his Operations research and systems Engineering. An interesting incident happened at Berkeley in 1939 when he was a student. One morning, he arrived late for his statistics class and he quickly copied down the two problems on the board assuming they were homework. Assignment took him several days to work through the problem and finally he had a breakthrough and dropped the homework at the professor’s desk the next day.

Six weeks later, his excited professor, announcing the acceptance of a paper based on his proof, visited George. Since George was late on that day, he didn’t know that the two problems on the board were unsolved equations. Since George was working without any limitations of impossibility, he could crack the mathematical mind-teasers that had stumped mathematicians for years.



A few lessons from the story:

1. George solved the problem because he didn’t know he couldn’t

2. We are limited only by our thoughts

3. Ignorance of something gives you a blind confidence

4. When we don’t know something is difficult or impossible, we will have a positive approach.

 Contributed By: Mr. Vinod Grover

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There are three terms – EDUCATION, TRAINING & COACHING. They are often confused to mean the same/ similar things. Actually, there is subtle, but very important, distinction.

Education means transfer of knowledge.

Training means transfer of skills.

Coaching relates to ‘harnessing of skills to achieve defined objectives’.

There are some subjects, which are learnt solely through education – history, geography, philosophy etc. There are other subjects, where the learning is ALWAYS INCOMPLETE with education alone. All such subjects need training.



  • We can’t learn swimming only through correspondence course
  • We can’t learn to play any game by classroom education alone – cricket, football, lawn tennis.
  • We can’t learn to play musical instruments, or learn classical music, by lectures alone.
  • We can’t become good welders, electricians, carpenters through web education only.

One needs education on these subjects, but one can master them only through training & relentless practice. The more we practice, the higher the skill. That is why, the worlds’ best tennis players, athletes, boxers, weight lifters continue to practice relentlessly.

Similarly, all team games – cricket, football, volleyball – are best learnt by professional training & continued practice.

But, why do trained people (even professional sportspeople) use personal coaches? Why do even the words’ best sports teams continue to engage highly paid coaches?  Why can’t they just train on their own? In Indian classical music, there is the gurushishya parampara. Just as there always has been its’ equivalent, in martial arts. Obviously, because there is some ‘value-addition’! And this value-addition goes beyond ‘education’ & ‘training’! ‘Coaching’ seems to delve in the arena beyond basic skills; perhaps it has to do with ‘harnessing of skills to achieve defined objectives’.

The ‘objectives’ will determine the added aspects. In case of individuals, the added aspects may involve

  • fine-tuning of skills,
  • mental/ psychological conditioning,
  • objective focused preparation,
  • opponent focused preparation.

In case of teams, the added aspects may involve

  • team building,
  • strategy & tactics formulation,
  • balancing of different skills for team effectiveness

In the context of Kaizen®/ Lean/ Quality/ Operational Excellence tools – education is necessary, but NOT sufficient. Knowledge alone does not enable effective implementation. Hence, these tools are

• best practiced in real-life situations (on the job),

• best learnt under experienced practitioners.

We also know that random application of the tools from these toolboxes at random locations within an organization, does not lead to genuine improvement impacting the customer or the organizational KPIs. The improvement activities need to be orchestrated intelligently to yield desirable KPI benefits.

That brings us to ‘harnessing these kaizen/ Lean/ OE skills to achieve organizational objectives’. When we are doing that, we are essentially ‘Managing Change’. Most corporate executives are not equipped to manage change, because they may not have acquired the corresponding ‘education’ in business schools; or the corresponding ‘training’ in their previous careers. In any case, even if they have had that training, it is most unlikely that they have enough practice! How many change management initiatives an average executive can go through in a career span? That is where the role of the ‘sensei’ (coach/ consultant) comes in. And that is the core capability – that of a COACH – a consulting organization in Operational Excellence must bring to the table to make its’ clients successful.

by Vinod Grover

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Kaizen Story: The Crow and The Peacock

Once there was a crow. It had a burning desire of looking to be more Beautiful. The crow lived in a big Banyan tree, where a number of peacocks also lived. It saw the beautiful plumes of the peacocks and cherished a desire to look like one of them. It often cursed itself for being ugly. It scorned the whole crow community being black and ugly. It had an ambition to improve like a peacock so that the people may praise it.

 ImageIn order to fulfill its ambition, it thought how to break away with the crow community. After deep thinking it deceived upon an ambitious plan. It decided to collect dropped off feathers of the peacocks and fix them up into its own, so that it may look beautiful like peacock. The poor crow never thought that only fixing of the feathers could not make it a peacock. There are many other things such as color, size, and crest, which are the essentials of a peacock. After putting on the feathers of the peacock, the crow considered itself to be a peacock. It was beside itself with joy. It decided to go and live with the peacocks. It took a long flight and reached the place where some peacocks were walking around. It walked up and down among the peacocks. The peacocks saw this strange bird with surprise. It looked half crow and half peacock.

Image The peacocks are known for their self-pride. They could not tolerate a crow posing to be a peacock. They could not break the presence of an imposter among themselves. At once they pounced upon the crow and broke away some of its artificial feathers. The crow was able to save its life with great difficulty. It flew at full speed for its life. The crow took a long flight and reached a place where some crows were perching. It began to move about proudly among the crows. The crows took it to be a different bird, resembling a peacock. They could not brook the presence of a peacock among themselves; they attacked it, pecking it hard with their beaks.

Again the crow had to fly away for its life. It was pained at heart and flew to a lonely tree in the jungle. It did not know what to do. It though, it had tried to improve itself by fixing peacocks’ feathers into its own, but they could not make it peacock. It was no accommodated by the peacocks rather it was attacked for being a imposter. Not only this had even its own brethren- the crows disowned it. It was at a loss to know what to do now. At last it tore off all of its peacock feathers and became a crow again. It was only then that the crows owned it as one of them and accommodated it among themselves. The foolish crow had a bitter experience. It learnt a lesson for life. Do not adopt unnatural and unfair methods for self-improvement and do not try to copy out others.

Moral of this story: 


It is not a story just to read and enjoy. It teaches us an important lesson that we should not try to improve ourselves only by imitating others but through hard work and sincere efforts.

We must not forego the moral ideals for attaining something.

The improper methods adopted stand in the way of desired achievements. Such methods are sure to affect the desired results. Even if we achieve something through such improper means, our achievement is not permanent. It is sure to be short lived.

You must avoid copying and cheating even in your examinations, because it is not a proper means.

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The Leadership Factor

We are privileged professionals! As we serve a number of clients from different industries, in different geographies, we have a ringside seat to their strategies, successes & failures. We see same & similar inputs of knowledge, skills & resources blending together to produce a dramatic kaleidoscope – from utter cacophony to a sublime orchestra! When you analyze this phenomenon, you are inevitably led to some objective conclusions about the factors that enable success. Here are our conclusions about the hierarchy of factors that drive excellence in an organization:

1. The single most important factor – the Conductors of the Orchestra – Leadership Factor
2. The second most important factor – People Factor!
3. The third most important factor – Innovation Factor!

A lot has been said, & plenty has been written about the Leadership Factor. But 
it bears repetition. As someone said, ‘The currency of Leadership is presence. 
Where leaders spend their time determines what is important to their 

In Tom Gross’s words, ‘Passion is the backbone of cultural excellence and is a hallmark of being a leader.’ When you have a leader on the floor or the front lines with his or her sleeves rolled up, it draws people in! I recently read an article by Michael Pryke, Managing Partner, EQ IMPACT. He describes the essence of Leadership by a model consisting of a central core/ hub connected together with 12 spokes supporting it, to make a round wheel propelling the team/ organization/ country forward.

The Central Core is ‘Personal Awareness’, which includes value systems, capabilities & empathy. The other 12 Ps forming the spoke are shown in the picture below:


There is much in this that seems to support our learning. Imai-sensei has been telling us for years about the three essential conditions of success in kaizen – Top Management Commitment, ……. !!

The other two factors listed by us also play very important roles in organizational success, but in the absence of right leadership, their efficacy is critically diluted. Perhaps, we shall discuss the other factors another time. Till then – cheers….

by Vinod Grover

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From Masaaki Imai to Mike Rother

by Vinod Grover

For years, students and followers of kaizen, TPS, WCM, Lean etc. have grappled with some questions:

What is the relationship between Kaizen & TPS?

Is Kaizen part of TPS? Is TPS the outcome of kaizen in practice? Do kaizen & TPS/ Lean/ WCM imply the same thing? Toyota is history’s most researched, written about & copied company. Yet, why is it that till date, by far, there is but one Toyota? Why is it that no other company has even come close to matching?

Toyota’s success over a sustained period of time (notwithstanding some recent year setbacks)?When I sat down to hear Mike Rother’s keynote in November, 2011 during the AME Conference in Dallas, I knew of his books. What followed was his version of a (highly plausible) answer to those questions, and prompted me to stand in a queue to get his book ‘Toyota Kata’ autographed by him!!


His prognosis is

1. The world is copying the ‘visible’ aspects of TPS – the ‘solutions’  born out of the ‘invisible’ (latent) practices/ methods / ‘behavioral routines’ (called ‘Kata’) McGraw Hill, 2010

2. The visible aspects of TPS (manifested in WCM/ Lean etc.) are solutions devised by Toyota’s employees to the problems faced by them, on their gemba

3. We are copying the ‘solutions’ (Tools), but are ignorant of the practices that have enabled the journey to these solutions – he calls them ‘Improvement Kata’, which is universally practiced by
everyone, everyday, everywhere in Toyota

That takes us back to our Kaicho – Imai-san. His definition of kaizen (1986, his first book KAIZEN) told us the same thing:

‘Kaizen means ongoing improvement involving everyone………’


However, over the years people remembered ‘ongoing improvement’;  but forgot ‘everyone’, & the implied ‘everywhere’! So, we return where we started from – is that the ‘cycle of learning’?

Mike Rother’s‘Improvement Kata’ is his description of the process/ method/ routine of ‘Kaizen’ –as practiced by Toyota. His ‘Coaching Kata’ is the process/ method/ routine of ‘Leadership behavior’ to ensure that kaizen sustains in Toyota.

Implication: TPS was born out of kaizen practices at Toyota. This was the subject of my session during IndiZen 2012 covered elsewhere in this issue. How to build a durable kaizen culture is a question, which continues to fascinate & intrigue practitioners. Perhaps Mike Rother has found one answer.

Even though we may have viable answers,

a) Do we have effective methods of implementing those answers in other environments?
b) Do we have enough senseis, who can coach those effective methods in real-life situations?
c) Do we have enough enlightened corporate leaders with adequate patience to devote time & effort for building a durable culture?

Possession of the right answers is no more than a beginning! I leave you with more questions than answers. Our quest for the right  answers is perhaps the eternal pathway for human progress. May you, the readers ask the right questions. For, only the right questions can lead us to the right answers.

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The Kaizen Way

If a war-ravaged Japan could resurrect and become a global economic super power in less than two decades, why can’t India follow its footsteps to leapfrog on to the path of prosperity?

The concept of KAIZEN (Change for good/better) does exactly the same thing – it helps organization improve their processes, products or services. In the wake of slowing Indian economy, companies have started reviewing their business costs. Job cuts are emerging as a key component of companies’ cost saving strategies.


The future of the businesses is becoming unpredictable & companies are making touch decisions when reviewing their operations costs. However this doesn’t need to equate to job cuts alone. Operational Excellence is an alternative strategy which many companies have now realized as it not only helps in bad times but also helps beyond that.  “Moreover organizations also want their products & services to be delivered in the right quantity, at the right time to the customers at most efficient cost.”

Kaizen’s prime focus is on removing Muda – a Japanese word for waste. Muda is also identified as elements of production that add time, effort and cost, but no value. Muda can be in the form of over production, non essential transport, over inventory, needless waiting for parts and machines, over processing, rework and failure to fully utilize the time and talents of the employees. The kaizen initiatives can totally change the paradigm and prove that kaizen can be implemented without compromising quality and regulatory environment. In fact it can help to do focused improvement & sustenance of improvements. Many organizations have realized that kaizen can be implemented without investing additional capital. What is required is a view or vision to building the new work culture and restoring the conditions of the machines or services that is offered. Employees at level should be engaged and given some responsibility so that they can feel & enjoy the ownership of the process & the belongingness.

Since the entire exercise of identifying the mudas (bottleneck and waste) and working out the plan to remove them is done with active participation of all there will be no resistance from the employee, in fact they will be happy that they can now show tangible results in terms of improved outputs and profits.

In practice, Kaizen can be implemented in corporations by improving every aspect of a business process in a step by step approach, while gradually developing employee skills through training education and increased involvement. In business Kaizen encompasses many of the components of Japanese businesses that have been seen as a part of their success. Quality circles, automation, suggestion systems, just-in-time delivery, kanban and 5S are all included within the Kaizen system of running a business and if this is adopted by each and every organization it can definitely help to leapfrog on the path of prosperity.

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Training for Continuous Improvement

Most organisations lose sight of logic when they cut training budgets, which results in organisational resources attacking the muscles rather than the fat


Kaizen Institute India deals in IQ (implementation and qualification services for Kaizen), Lean Training and other world-class practices. It also qualifies people as Certified Kaizen practitioners. Since the company focuses on provision of knowledge, consulting and qualification services, Mr. Jayant Murthy strongly believes in training the workforce accordingly.

Mr. Murthy tells us, “We provide various kinds of skills and techniques to our clients that help eliminate waste so that they can become more productive, cost-efficient and improve their delivery skills through implementation, therefore learning better. We also provide CKP (Certified Kaizen Practitioner) training to some of the people in our clients’ organisations, so that they become internal change agents or champions. This process often referred to as ‘train-the-trainer’.”

The key objective behind such training is to help clients change their viewpoints. Mr. Murthy believes that if viewpoints do not change, clients would continue to do and act as they were already doing, and therefore continue to get the same results. This explains their strong belief in ‘changing the thinking’.

Training also helps in visualising an improved state, which in turn infuses a keenness that makes one want to learn and grow.

Most organisations lose sight of logic when they cut training budgets. This results in organisational resources attacking the muscles rather than fat. Organisations need to understand that cost consumption takes place through waste, excess inventory, breakdown of machines, etc., which if reduced can lead to a amount of savings. Reducing training budgets results in loss of skill days within the organisation. During challenging times, it is important to learn new skills to survive and improve.

Seeing is Believing!!

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Seeing is Believing!!

KAIZEN Tours are an integral part of the service offerings of the KAIZEN Institute worldwide. We strongly believe in the statement Seeing is Believing!!!

Kaizen tours helps the participants to see the improvement which helps them to ignite their motivation & creativity. It also allows to have a close-up first hand look at how a company/office or gemba should be run.

Vodafone firmly believes in this and recently visited our L&G Spaces & Volkswagen plant at Pune.

“It was fantastic & well systematic plant. Awesome experience.” is what they said after visiting Volkswagen and “Very good space management & Very fantastic office with Lean & Green concept” were the words used for L&G Spaces.

Its all about Execution!

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Its all about Execution!

Strategies will remain strategies, if Operational Excellence (O.E) is not the key focus. O.E is all about cutting waste (not cost!) and killing errors across the value chain.

It is about execution excellence, it is about execution that is both high speed with zero errors. Kaizen is at the heart of this! As you adopt Kaizen, the organization become LEAN (less ‘fat’) leading to higher customer service, lower costs (thus cash and profits), highly engaged people, all of which is the objective of most strategies!

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Kaizen in Public Hospitals – Voice of customer!!!


Nothing is more Powerful, Authentic and Impactful then the voice of the customer.

It is proved once again that leadership is key to sustained quality improvements. Dr. Rupali C.Mehta – CDMO (Chief District Medical Officer) at the Rajkot District Hospital (Gujarat, India) has been driving Kaizen and has recently pin pointed the benefits\ impact of Kaizen (Five s and Process Improvements);

1. Safety of patients and staff has been improved through repairing of electrical wires & Signage has been put on every dangerous places.
2. More cleanliness because of customized checklist, fixed schedules & responsibilities for cleaning.
3. Time reduction in finding needed things because of checklist of every cupboard and labeling of everything.
4. Reduced Turn-around time :

 At lab, reports are being given in an hour.
 At registration windows extra data operator is appointed to reduce the                waiting time of patient.
 One extra drug dispensary window has been opened to reduce the waiting time for medicines.

5. As everything is at right place and right place for everything has been identified, it has improved the productivity of staff.
6. 5S is done with minimum cost. It has given earning through additional scrap auction.
7. Space is automatically created when everything is placed properly (set in order).
8. Development of Team spirit.
9. As we had internal training through our own champions and one internal audit has also been done, People are really getting motivation from each other. Every department wants to be best. In all internal meeting people who are putting sincere efforts are being appreciated.
10. It has reduced duplication of entries in different registers that were previously maintained. We have reduced number of registers in wards.
11. Improvement in inventory management.
12. Staff can arrange things that they need frequently nearby so travel time & distance every

We are proud! her team were trained and supported by the Kaizen Institute on Continuous Quality Improvement. Due to her commitment and belief in Kaizen, through both 5s & Process Improvements she has seen some great benefits, which she says NO other approach delivered before.