9 Steps for Implementing Successful Kaizen Events

If you want your business’ project management process to run as efficiently as possible, you absolutely must get your kaizen culture, the lean way of achieving continuous improvement, right. 

Kaizen Definition

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process. It is a strategy where employees at all levels of an organization collaborate proactively to achieve sustainable, incremental improvements to the manufacturing process. In simple terms, it combines the collective talents in an organization to create a powerful engine for improvement. Kaizen is a philosophy that supports continuous, incremental process changes that sustain a high level of efficiency. At one level kaizen can help you personally improve the way you work by eliminating “waste”. At the organizational level, kaizen can be a powerful team-approach that harnesses suggestions and involvement from people at every level. Wide participation can serve to improve morale and satisfaction as much as it improves production, costs, and other hard measures. If you choose to bring kaizen into your workplace, you’ll be surprised at how big an impact small changes can make, and how the culture of continuous improvement can thrive. In World Class Manufacturing methodology, Kaizen is a tool used in the Focused Improvement (FI) pillar. In combination with People Development (PD) pillar and Cost Deployment (CD) pillar the FI pillar is critical for formalizing the Blue Room strategy to enable successful kaizen implementing to achieve savings results.

Kaizen Implementation

There are 4 phases in the kaizen implementation cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) as described below:


This is the first phase in the kaizen cycle.

  • It starts with understanding of the current state processes where data from available sources is captured and analyzed to identify top priorities (losses) that need to be addressed.
  • 5G is used to better understand and analyze the phenomena and verify all hypothesis
  • 5W1H is used to ask a series of questions (who, what, where, when, why, how) to identify and clearly understand the phenomena
  • 4M1D is used to conduct a comprehensive causal analysis and identify root causes causing the problem
  • SMART targets are established to provide clear vision and goals for the team


In this phase, a detailed implementation plan is executed to eliminate the identified root causes. Corrective actions are implemented for three categories:

  • Corrective: Fix the issues in the short term to stop the losses as soon as possible
  • Preventative: Fix the root cause to ensure measures are put in place to prevent reoccurrence of issues
  • Read across: Apply the corrective actions to other similar problems in the company to maximize benefit


In this step, the results of the actions implemented in the before step are analyzed. A before-and-after comparison is performed verifying whether there were improvements and if the stablished objectives were achieved. Benefit to cost (B/C) ratio is an important metric that can identify the impact of each improvement as well as the overall kaizen. It is important that results are monitored for a significant amount of time (typically 60-90 days) to validate improvements are effective and sustainable.


This phase consists in developing methods aimed to standardize and expand the improvements. It comes into effect once the desired results are achieved in the check phase. Specific artifacts are created in this stage such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) and One Point Lessons (OPL’s) to establish clear operational guidelines for sustaining the improvements moving forward. Also, the kaizen is read across or horizontally expanded at this stage to other similar areas in the business to maximize benefit Note: There can be any number of iterations of the Do and Check phases, as you continue to refine, retest and trial potential solutions.

Steps for Implementing a Successful Kaizen Event:

1. Plan Kaizen Event

A well thought out plan is key to success and it ensure the kaizen event leader can organize resources and activities efficiently and effectively to achieve the desired goals. The plan must include detailed scheduling of all the activities that will be performed in the kaizen event.

2. Assemble The Team

The fast-paced nature of the manufacturing industries can make it extremely difficult to free up a group of people for many days during the duration of the kaizen event. Therefore, it is important that the cross functional team that will be part of the kaizen event should be identified early in the process to ensure they can be trained well in advance and their time can be secured for participating in the kaizen event.

3. Conduct Training

Training employees – current and future – in kaizen methodology is key for transformation success. With World Class Manufacturing (WCM) now an integral part of any successful lean organization, it’s no longer just leaders that need to know the fundamentals. All cross functional teams need to understand what kaizen is, their role in it and its impact across the business. Digital training tools like Learning Management System have proven track record of providing a seamless and consistent training framework to clearly identify and close training gaps.

4. Prioritize And Analyze

In this step, the organization needs to collect and analyze potential strategies with the right cross functional teams involved in the discussion. It is important to ensure data, processes and knowledge are leveraged along with potential ideas and feedback to identify the top losses or focus areas that will be addressed in the kaizen event.

5. Kaizen Implementation

Industry research and proven results have shown the best approach towards implementing a kaizen is PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act). PDCA offers a systematic way of knowledge acquisition and implementing change. Adopting the PDCA cycle increases employee’s process knowledge, widen-decision making options, and boosts the probability of sustainable long-term progress.

6. Document Findings

This is another critical step in the process. All the kaizen information during the different phases must be captured in detail using a standardized format. This is important to ensure the kaizen is easy to review and the improvement can be clearly communicated. A digital kaizen management software like Process Excellence Temple provides a seamless and efficient way to do this.

7. Broadcast Results

It is important to celebrate the results at the end of the kaizen events. In addition to providing clear visibility of return on investment (ROI) across the organization it also helps to recognize the teams effort and motivate employees for future events.

8. Conduct Retrospective

A Retrospective is held at the end of the kaizen event. The general purpose is to allow the team, as a group, to evaluate the results of the event and see what did not work as planned. The Retrospective is an opportunity for the Kaizen Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Kaizen event.

9. Repeat The Process

Continuous improvement is the foundation of an effective kaizen implementation culture. Successful kaizen events can be repeated in different areas of the organization to gain further benefits. As an organization matures, their efficiency and pace of kaizen implementation also improves.


In order to implement successful kaizen events, the objective of a Kaizen event must be clear and concise. It should prioritize problems, eliminate waste, develop effective training and implementation, and create a workplace culture of continuous pursuit of perfection throughout the organization. The goal is to pursue perfection, not necessarily to achieve it. After all, how do we improve on perfection? Kaizen is continuous improvement by increased productivity, waste elimination, lean manufacturing, and lean six sigma. It is small, deliberate steps.

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