Thursday, March 24, 2011

What is Kaizen Spirit?

By Pascal Dennis

Change is hard. Sustaining change, even harder.

We need an indomitable spirit -- which my senseis called "kaizen spirit"

Kaizen spirit comprises three things:

1. Cheerfulness -- the conviction that, no matter how tough things are today, tomorrow will be better.

In spite of everything, we'll keep improving and solve our most difficult problems.

2. Go see -- the desire to experience life first hand, to get out of the office and into the Gemba.

The willingness to work with front-line team members with humility and openness.

3. Get your hands dirty -- we roll up our sleeves and try stuff with our colleagues.

We practice our core techniques: problem solving, and pull in Lean tools as required.

We run experiments to prove cause and effect. Then we lock in countermeasures with standardized work & visual management -- and share what we've learned. 
Here's an assignment for ya'll: Draw a picture of kaizen spirit.
Have fun. And don't worry if you're "not an artist".
Arrows, boxes and stick figures work just fine.


  1. Kaizen is a workforce philosophy from Japan, yet it is also a way of life for some people around the world. This method embraces cooperation and suggestions from every personnel of the company to improve as a whole. Also, this philosophy isn't just about "Getting things done"; this is more of getting things done with less waste as possible.

  2. The kaizen way and kaizen spirit closely tied together. As Liza says, we need a "way" of making improvement that involves everyone in the organization, follows the scientific method and shares learning so we continually get stonger. Kaizen spirit is the force that keeps us making little improvements every day.

  3. Allan Mullaly, Ford's CEO, exemplifies kaizen spirit.

    No matter how difficult the challenge, he is cheerful & optimistic. Over time, a culture of lightness & opportunity emerges.

    Kaizen spirit entails fortitude and a light spirit -- Teddy Roosevelt & a laughing Buddha

  4. I love what you have captured here about the mindsets. People so often fixate on teaching people tools, but without that "cheerfulness" and the belief that things can get better, the tools won't be put to good use (or maybe not put to any use).

    People have to think they NEED to get better and they also have to believe they CAN get better. It seems too many workplaces lack that belief things can get better.

    But, even the classic "complainer" type might be coming from the perspective that things can be better (or they just like to hear themselves bitch and moan -- it could be either). I think, too often, leaders write off "the complainers" when they should really be harnessing their energy to help make things better.

  5. Good insights on the complainer personality type, Mark.

    My experience includes both species you describe -- a) the miserable sod ("Whatevever it it, I'm against it!"), and b) the disillusioned ("I thought I could make a difference, but...")

    The former is a lost cause -- let's not waste time. (Who cares what their problem is?")

    But the latter type, to your point, can be redeemed. Given the tools and support, they can become champions.