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Masaaki IMAI, a world-renowned Sensei, put in place principles and concepts regarding the mindset and attitude that one must have in the context of a culture of continuous improvement.

Masaaki IMAI, Japanese born in 1930, worked in Japan and the United States from the years 50 as part of productivity improvement projects.

He developed the foundations of Kaizen, translated as “continuous Improvement“, known as principles and concepts, and created in 1986 the Kaizen Institute consultancy company to share the good practices of kaizen.

Masaaki IMAI develops the fact that Kaizen is above all a mindset based on common sense and consensus.

common sense is the most shared thing in the world because everyone thinks they are well endowed

René Descartes .

We are convinced that common sense is a foundation of the Kaizen mindset. But as René Descartes points out is not wrong, the complexity of common sense is when you have to agree a group of people, all thinking they have common sense.

1. Breaking the Paradigms

Culture, habits and ways of doing business Paradigms That may seem immutable. With Kaizen, it is a matter of thinking differently, sometimes leaving to question the obvious, avoiding systematically thinking that any recurring problem has no solution.

2. Work the processes as much as the results

Traditionally, the actors in a process focus more on the results to be achieved than on how to achieve it. The Kaizen approach therefore recommends that these actors work on their processes in order to improve the level of quality and homogeneity of the results.

The challenge is to be able to control what we do in order to avoid the systematic management of the emergency.

3. Evolve in a global framework

With Kaizen, the individual capacities of the actors must be exploited in order to improve the overall productivity of the organization. The efficiency objectives defined for the actors in the same process must therefore be coherent, and these actors must be aware of their role in achieving the overall objective of the process.

Think global, ACT local!

4. Do not judge, do not blame

The mutual respect of the actors and the key principles of Kaizen philosophy. The search for the causes of the problem must gradually replace that of the actors at the root of the problem. The idea is to make a positive analysis of the problems emerge by seeing these as opportunities for improvement.

A series of films about not judging too fast

5. Consider the next step as a customer

Kaizen introduces the notion of an internal customer into the chain of realization of a process. In terms of operation, this implies that the problems must now be dealt with and remedied where they appear, and no longer in the terminal phase of the realization of a process.

6. Making Quality a priority

The quality must be integrated with the performance objectives of the process in the same way as the classic time and costs.

7. Giving market orientation to change

The organization must understand the needs of clients, explicitly or implicitly expressed, so as to translate them in terms of activities to be carried out.

8. Manage Upstream issues

It is a question of introducing quality management as far as possible upstream of the product development process, so as to avoid the late onset of more difficult and costly problems to be remedied.

9. Base decisions on tangible data

Problem-solving must be based on facts and data, not on intuition or opinions, that it is a question of collecting and verifying its validity.

without data, one is just one more person with an opinion ” W. E. Deming

It is called the Tatakidai in Japanese: meaning “board to beat“, in our context it means to have a document sufficiently detailed and factual to generate a constructive exchange and not just a debate of ideas.

10. Identify the real causes of the problem

This principle recalls the need not to stop at the first visible cause of the problem found (use of the tool 5 Why). This also means checking that solving a problem does not cause new problems to appear.

Interview with Masaaki IMAI


M. Imai (1992)-Kaizen: The key to Japanese competitiveness

M. Imai (2007)-Gemba Kaizen, the art of manager with common sense

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