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Lean is a trip and not a destination!

More than tools or modes of management, Lean is above all a mindset centered on the search for the best quality for the customer while minimizing the wastes (energy, material…).

To be clear, it’s all Except Cost Killing (known via misuse of the acronym LEAN: less Employed are Needed).

Taichi Ohno sums it up as follows:

“When you discover that your simple and permanent efforts can be at the origin of the greatest transformations, you must not be distracted by a short-term vision.”

There are many “models” indicating the different behaviours and attitudes related to the implementation of Lean. One finds in particular:

Kaizen or Kairyo?

Few people know this, but the original book on the Toyota System of Taiichi OHNO published in 1978 shows some inaccuracies in translation (famous translation published in 1988 under the name “Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale production“).

In this book the term Kaizen is translated as “continuous improvement“. In fact, in Japanese, literally the term “continuous improvement” translates to “Kairyo“. This term has a fundamental nuance that we present below:


The term Kaizen expresses the ideaof “continuous improvement” which applies to attitude, personal development, behaviour, in clear,state of mind. In other words, it should have been translated as “Continuous self-development“.


Kairyo is the literal translation of “Continuous Improvement“. It is related to continuous improvement in a general way: process, machine, technology…

In the end, through the vagueness of translation and the subtlety of the Japanese language, we have “forgotten” That Kaizen is only a continuous improvement of our état-d’esprit resulting in the improvement of processes, products…

  1. Hansei: translated as “self-reflection“, this translates the idea of lifelong learning.
  2. Courage: Aptitude necessary for permanent questioning and coping with the barriers of change (paradigm, Status quo…).
  3. Ringiseido: Very important in Japanese culture, this reflects the idea that decisions are always obtained by consensus.
  4. Yaruzo: Translated as “Iwill”, this translates a behavior of action and pragmatism rather than apology and expectation. In Japan, many companies practice the “Yaruzo Call“, a song played in a team and allowing motivation and action.
  5. Monozukuri: Translated as “making a good“, in Japanese culture it expresses the idea of conscientiously carrying out its work without generating waste.

Producing goods is first developing men

Translation of the term Hitozukuri (物づくりは人づくり), this term defined a fundamental of the state of mind of Toyota: Developing teams is the cornerstone of continuous improvement. This shows how much the priority of management is to focus on training and respect for men to achieve excellence.

For the anecdote, the inverse of Kaizen is the Kaiaku, “change to the bad“.

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