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Kaizen Principles: Foundation on which the transformation takes place

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Guiding principles that help in learning to think Lean

Principle refers to the People’s way of thinking. It is also called mindset.

These Principles are the starting point for Kaizen (Changing for the Better) and are embedded in all the tools; they form the very foundation on which the Kaizen transformation takes place.

Kaizen Principle 1

Below given are the five principles which has to be kept in mind before you start any Kaizen/Lean/Operational/Manufacturing excellence journey:

  1. Create customer value
  2. Eliminate waste
  3. Engage People
  4. Go to gemba
  5. Manage improvements


Create Customer Value

Customer value = Utility – Price (Utility includes Products & Service Quality)

  • Market In: ‘Market In’ is customer focus to
    • factually understand customers QCD needs
    • anticipate and understand customer’s unstated wants & needs
  • The next operation is customer
    • Every operation has customer & suppliers
    • Who are my internal customers?
    • How do my customers use my input?


  • Never pass muda, waste or problems onto the next process:
    • Don’t accept
    • Don’t make
    • Don’t pass on
  • Upstream management
    • Find the problems
    • Solve the problems
    • Avoid/Prevent problems

Kaizen Principle 2

Eliminate Waste

Company value = Price – Cost Waste increases cost and diminishes value. Therefore it is very important to focus on deletion, systematic improvement, value stream structure & pull based.

  • Focus on MUDA: Any activity customer is not ‘Prepared’ to pay for!
    • If you eliminate non value added activities the lead time will reduce and you will get higher flexibility, less stocks, better service, reduced complexity, less cost & improve freshness.
  • Total system optimization: Stresses on integration of total system & appreciates all critical factors.

 functional VS total system 3

Value stream organization

  • Value stream organization is opposite to functional organization
  • Functional organization divides, isolates, creates waste, conflict & inefficiency
  • Value stream organization integrates & appreciates all critical factors
  • There are no isolated autonomous systems – everything affects everything else
  • Pull Flow thinking
    • Pull means that no upstream should produce a good or service until the customer (downstream) asks for it.
    • Pull system reduces the lead time
    • Pull system requires focus on reduction in setup time to enable quick changeover

Engage People

Provide clear objectives at all level. Coach and empower. Develop leadership.

Kaizen Flag 4

  • Welcome problems
    • Where no problems is perceived, there can be no improvement
    • Problems are mountain of treasures
    • People are not problems
    • Increase people capability to solve problem: make people problem solver
  • No Blaming
    • Traditional blaming
      • Judges after the fact
      • Let’s ‘who-is-wrong’ override ‘what-is-wrong’
      • Drives people into defensive positions
      • Submerges issues for years
      • Creates crisis orientation

Therefore focusing on the issue or problem, not on the person, creates an open, trusting, communication rich environment. Blaming VS Leadership 5 Go To GEMBA

Gemba is a Japanese word which means ‘The Real Place’. Gemba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing the Gemba is the factory floor. It can be any “site” such as a construction site, sales floor or where the service provider interacts directly with the customer. In lean manufacturing, the idea of gemba is that

  • the problems are visible,
  • and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the gemba.
  • an activity that takes management to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities to practice gemba kaizen, or practical shop floor improvement.

Golden rules of Gemba

  • When an abnormality occurs, go to gemba first
  • Check with Gembutsu (machine, material, failures, rejects, unsafe conditions etc.)
  • Take temporary countermeasures on the spot
  • Remove root cause
  • Standardize to prevent trouble

Manage the transformation

Three things to be kept in mind to manage transformation

  • Focus on process and results
    • Inconsistent process gives inconsistent results
    • Ignoring the processes reduces the chances of desired results
    • While quality processes gives quality results
    • Traditional thinking says ‘I don’t care how you do it, just get it done’. (Results only thinking)
    • People work on processes; Processes create results; Results cannot be changed; Improve process to get improved results;
  • PDCA/SDCA approach

Kaizen Principle 6

  • Visible processes/problems

Visual Management is displaying information. It helps us

  • To depict
    • Parameters
    • Trends
    • Strategic data
  • To show and control process
  • To identify and mark
    • Hazards
    • Reference points
    • Standards

Change thinking- change Environment- change habits – change culture

P.S. If your leaders and colleagues are also interested in this subject, do them a favor and share this link. They may thank you for your concern and initiative. Looking for more info on Kaizen/Lean/Operational Excellence? Click here

Author: Kaizen Institute - India!

Kaizen Institute – India is part of the Global Kaizen Institute operations. Kaizen Institute was established by Sensei Masaaki Imai, the GURU of Kaizen. He wrote the 1st book 28 yrs ago and that is when it all started . We operate in 30+ countries today and have over 400+ coaches helping more then 600 organizations Learn, Apply, Sustain – Kaizen/ Operational Excellence. In India we have two physical offices – Pune & Ahmedabad and 27 coaches in all.

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