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Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

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Kaizen vs. Kaikaku

Posted September 15, 2008 @ 8:29 AM

A very thought-provoking quote from Toyota's president, Katuaki Watanabe in HBR (via Mark Graban, via The Association Renewal blog):

There’s no genius in our company. We just do whatever we believe is right, trying every day to improve every little bit and piece. But when 70 years of very small improvements accumulate, they become a revolution.
In lean terms, there are two kinds of improvement. The familiar one is kaizen, which refers to steady but incremental improvement. The other is kaikaku, which means revolution, or radical improvement.

Kaizen is boring and laborious. Kaikaku is sexy and exciting. Kaizen is your spouse of 15 years. Kaikaku is the smoking hot blonde on the barstool next to you.

Kaizen is sorting through the piles of paper on your desk, throwing out the garbage, filing away the stuff of value, and actually taking care of the rest of it (filling out expense reports, or completing performance evaluations). Kaikaku is installing a new $1.5 million centralized database where you can scan, store, and search for all the crap that used to fester on your desk.

Kaizen is investing the time and effort to establish service level agreements within your organization, so that people don't feel compelled to respond to every email within one minute of its arrival. Kaikaku is establishing "email-free Fridays."

Kaizen is creating standard work for meetings -- and following it. Kaikaku is installing $250,000 worth of videoconference hardware to enable people to attend meetings without the risk of being late.

Watanabe's comment reminds me that the difference between kaizen and kaikaku is a false choice. Done long enough and consistently enough, kaizen actually becomes kaikaku.

Take a look at your own work: what incremental improvements can you make today? What small change can you make to help you gain control over email? What small change can you make to reduce interruptions from co-workers? You don't have to find a complete solution to your email problem, nor do you have to completely eliminate interruptions. Rather, you should look to make a small improvement. And once that takes hold, look for the next small step you can take.

It's the difference between hitting a sngle and hitting a homer. They'll both get you a run, but singles are a lot easier to come by than homers. And you're less likely to strike out.


Kaikaku is about getting the basics in place.
Its about getting the workforce to start thinking about what they are supposed to do. Standardising the process.
Without the Kaikaku you are building Kaizen on sandy foundations.
1.Throw out the traditional concept of manufacturing methods.
2.Think about how the new method will work, not how it won't work.
3.Don't accept excuses; totally deny the status quo.
4.Don't seek perfection; a 50% implementation rate is fine as long as it's done on the spot.
5.Correct mistakes the moment they are found.
6.Don't spend money on Kaikaku.
7.Problems give you a chance to use your brains.
8.Ask "Why" five times.
9.Ten person's ideas are better than one person's knowledge.
10.Kaikaku knows no limits.
The above 10 commandments are all good basic principles to start any improvement journey.
It is top down initiative to activate a bottom up empowerment for change.


I don't have much else to say.

Kaizen vs. Kaikaku

Nice post and yeah i am agree that Kaikaku is sexy and exciting. i like the way you thought about Kaikaku because it is real thought.

good post

Put another way, evolution vs. revolution?

It's Kaizen AND Kaikaku

Cool Post! I would view it as Kaizen AND Kaikaku. Both are needed to improve if used in balance. Beware though, using your example, if you choose both your spouse and the smoking hot blonde. That would not be wise!

Similar to "deliberate practice"

Dan -- I may have made this parallel before, but I think the kaizen process for organizations is similar to the "deliberate practice" process for individuals: the consistent pursuit of improvement via little changes day by day leads to revolutionary results in the long run.

More info on deliberate practice here.

Kaikaku is real though. It

Kaikaku is real though. It is the Prius.

Kaizen is the new model of the Camry.

Interstingly, inside Toyota (from what I have observed) kaikaku is not a lot more than focused, stacked-up, on-a-single-topic kaizen...and a lot of kaizen...done in a hurry.

Kaikaku also tends to be a little more top down, than bottom up (which is kaizen). Strategic rather than tactical.

But, the one thing all of us can do...now...today...is kaizen.

Did two this morning...it felt good.

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