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To obtain Lean within an organization, it is necessary to make use of different methodologies suited to your organization. These methodologies provide actionable steps to change the thinking and processes of your organization. Kaizen and Kaikaku are two of these methodologies, both related to the improvements within a business when implementing lean processes. When people enter the world of lean processing and methodologies, Kaizen is usually the first one they may think of, or be advised about. However, the deeper you move into Lean the more you learn, and in particular the term Kaikaku. Although they are similar methods, there are differences in the way they work, and how they are implemented. Firstly, let’s understand what they both are.


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Translated from Japanese Kai means change, and Zen means for the better, Kaizen is an evolutionary methodology. Kaizen is the familiar kind of improvements used when it comes to Lean; it involves taking your time and effort to work through current processes. Kaizen then requires an organization to implement incremental changes to action improvement. When applied within a workforce it involves everyone, from managers to floor staff, every day and every location. Kaizen provides a structure of continuous improvement that is constantly used within an organization with minimal risk, yet producing effective results.


In contrast to Kaizen, Kaikaku is a revolutionary method and is for those moments when part of implementing Lean requires the need for a more radical step change. When a problem arises that requires immediate more effective change, usually for a larger project, Kaikaku comes into play. This can be the installation of a software update that will have a large impact on the processes within an organization, quickly reducing waste within the step(s) it is associated with. The results are more immediate, yet the risk is far greater than Kaizen.

The main identifiable differences between Kaizen and Kaikaku are the size of the action taken to achieve lean, and the length of time it takes for that action to have a noticeable effect. Summarizing, Kaizen has a continuous incremental impact, while kaizen has a more radical, immediate impact. However, this does not mean you need to only select one or the other. In actual fact, Kaizen and Kaikaku work well when coupled together in synergy.

Kaikaku is often used as a precursor to implementing Kaizen in many organizations. Kaikaku breaks the standards and status quo in an organization, to increase individual’s awareness to a better level of understanding. Think back to the example of installing new software, Kaikaku is the installation of the software, while the staff training for that software, and their continuous use of it is Kaizen. Sometimes if you do not get the desired results from Kaikaku, it can take the use of continuous improvements to actually see those results become a reality. Both improvements do require a group of individuals who are vested, and believe in the organization that they are trying to improve in order to be successful.