Kaizen means improvement, or literally, good change. Identified by author Masaaki Imai as “the key to Japanese competitive success,”1 kaizen is the philosophy undergirding continuous improvement at every level of the organization, and involving all personnel. As a philosophy, kaizen is the post-World War II driving force behind the success of a host of Japanese companies, led most notably by Toyota.
Kaizen, as an organizational philosophy, was introduced to Japan through several American post-World War II initiatives designed to help war torn Japan recover and flourish. W. Edwards Deming received an award from the Emperor of Japan for his involvement in developing and implementing kaizen. The W. Edwards Deming Institute remains a significant influence in continuous improvement, including in the promotion of the basic kaizen cycle (PDSA cycle) of plan, do, study, act: