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Continuous Improvement and Kaizen - Trade and Justice

Continuous Improvement and Kaizen – Trade and Justice

by Nelida Castile

Exclusive for Trade and Justice

We recognize that continuous improvement is the most efficient and effective methodology, recognized in the world to ensure the success of management in organizations, whether they are industrial and service companies, civic associations, NGOs, public agencies and government offices, cultural, social, recreational and health.
In this wide range of organizations there is room for all professions related to the management of human activities, such as engineering, economic sciences, health sciences, legal sciences, communication sciences and social sciences in general.

The philosophy and practice of continuous improvement can be applied to the objects of study of the above disciplines, with great benefit in training the persons involved,

Who are the people who truly “produce quality”, for the success and survival of organizations.

In events related to quality management and continuous improvement we hear that when referring to the latter, the term ‘Kaizen’ is used as a synonym on several occasions. So we ask ourselves is continuous improvement equal to kaizen?

The Japanese word “Kaizen” has a deep meaning, encompassing each individual in their core, ethics and philosophy. It is exciting to delve into this concept and note how authors from different countries and cultures have studied it in depth.

One of these authors is Professor Manuel Suarez Barraza, of Monterrey Institute of Technology (Mexico), who has applied kaizen to many business sectors in his country. In addition, Harwinder and Jagdeep Singh, of Guru Nanak Dev College of Engineering (India), have done extensive research on the meaning of the word kaizen.

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Educators from India say that continuous improvement has become “a new paradigm in all kinds of organizations. In recent years, many organizations have shown that significant improvements can be achieved in the manufacturing sector after successfully implementing kaizen practices.”

Although Masaaki Imai defined the term kaizen in his two books on the subject (1986; 1997), this Japanese word for “improvement” still lacks a detailed explanation that allows it to provide greater clarity to its theoretical content. Different authors have tried to explain it from different points of view. Imai (1989) defines himself as “improvement and even more: it means continuous improvement that includes all, managers and workers alike.” The definition of Imai (1986, 1989) is based on the fact that the word Kaizen is a derivation of two Japanese symbols that mean: KAI = change, ZEN = good (for the better), i.e. continuous improvement or the principle of continuous improvement.

Specifically, Imai, in 2006 and 2007, expanded on Kaizen to mean “continuous improvement, but improvement every day, every moment, being carried out by all employees of the organization, anywhere in the company. This goes from small incremental improvements to radical and radical innovations.” We think this is the most complete concept from Kaizen and it is one that faithfully follows the Japanese meaning. Kaizen, in its Western sense, is understood as continuous improvement and tends to be used as a general component, characteristic, or critical factor in other management approaches, such as total quality management (TQM) or lean thinking.(Read thinking


For this reason, it has been approached from a more practical administrative and organizational angle, which applies it as a methodology and / or technique with basic tools, such as standardization, the five S and the elimination of activities that do not add value to business processes, the so-called “mudas”; in Japanese. It’s simple, straightforward and easy, but it should be used together without skipping any steps.

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Kaizen allows you to make very important changes in small steps. It is useful for achieving a variety of changes, both on a personal level and at work. It has been tested with great success in Japanese companies, which has led to very significant changes in the creativity and efficiency of its employees, as long as they consider it a philosophy.

It is noted in the Western concept that this devotion felt by the Japanese towards kaizen is missing. Our entrepreneurs are often impatient and in a hurry for quick results and may overlook some of the small steps that Kaizen is built on.

* Coordinator of the Organizing Committee of the Seventh Regional Meeting of the Argentine Society for Continuous Improvement (Sameco). Until July 1, papers will be accepted for the event to be held at the School of Economics (UNC), on September 15. Inquiries: [email protected]