Kaizen management strategy for optimizing organizations and projects

Kaizen is a broad concept with quite abstract ideas. However, modern management can take advantage of these traditional ideas and create optimal processes and perfect product development and project management.

Introducing Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples, written by a Scrum Master student.
Kaizen principles are based on Professor Iwao Kobayashi’s 20 keys.

Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples

Professor Iwao Kobayashi’s 20 keys were created back in 1990 and are the foundation of industrial production. The trainee was tasked with presenting a more modern version with examples related to software development.


1. Clean and organize. The disorder is a form of indiscipline and is an obstacle to the normal flow of the work process. This is a must regardless of the type of company/organization/enterprise.


2. Planning. The timing of operations is planned to create a flow of high-quality and affordable products. – In the case of optimized work, it is good to have an idea of what we can achieve at the end of the sprint and what direction we will take after that, depending on the results. Assessment of risks and potential issues that may arise during the sprint. The planning should be carried out with all employees involved in the implementation of the goals (general meeting). Reference: “20 Kaizen Keys: A Strategy for Integrating Kaizen in a Software Company”, https://brightonbot.com/20-kaizen-keys-a-strategy-for-integrating-kaizen-in-a-software-company/


3. Teamwork. Focusing on teamwork to engage everyone in enthusiastic improvements. – A key point requiring employees to act as a unit and be able to rely on both each other and their managers. As a prerequisite for collaboration, employees are encouraged to share common times during non-working hours (teambuilding and more). Positive emotions experienced together lead to a smoother flow of the work process, with mutual support and fewer interpersonal clashes. Such measures can eliminate possible problems in the bud. Reference: What is Kaizen methodology, https://medfd.org/what-is-kaizen-methodology/ (MedFD)

Management style

4. Management style with commitment and participation. – In quite a few cases, a great distance is felt between managers and employees in the work process, when the goals are not achieved. Often this comes from small problems that, as they accumulate, lead to lower results. At these times, employees who are directly involved in a given activity should be directly involved in the management process to find solutions to these small obstacles. For their part, managers should be committed to eliminating/limiting/resolving difficulties to keep teams focused on achieving targets. More on the topic: “Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples“, https://pm.mba/posts/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-examples/

Continuous improvement

5. Continuous improvement of the workplace. Creating improvement as a way of life, continuous work improvement, and a better workplace. – In the office buildings of large companies (since they have huge capitals), various amenities provided for employees are often noticed (parking spaces in/around the office building, vending machines for food and drinks on the floors, water machines in individual offices, recreation rooms with video and board games, adjacent minipark, etc.). These amenities are not always available in smaller organizations, and this is often a prerequisite for “noise” in the work process (10-15 minute delay, due to lack of parking spaces, extended 15-minute breaks, due to the distance of a store, etc. ). The provision of such amenities leaves employees feeling cared for by management, but is also a prerequisite for the more efficient performance of duties. Further reading: “Kaizen strategy with 20 keys to Workplace Improvement by Iwao Kobayashi“, https://mpmu.org/kaizen-strategy-20-keys/


6. Technology. Use and training of more complex technologies and adaptation of teams to them. – If we take an IT company as an example, we can look at things like this: developers need a program to write codes. Yes, but it would be time-consuming and labor-intensive if they had to write the codes on NotePad, respectively, there should be specialized according to the language or languages they speak. Also, it may be cheaper to get a free or old version, but this will lead to broken software over time due to the lack of program features. In other words, the latest version of the software is supposed to be the most advanced compared to the rest of the previous versions, therefore the most efficient. Keep reading: “20 Keys to Workplace Improvement (Manufacturing & Production) explained with examples and strategies“, https://phron.org/20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-manufacturing-production-explained-with-examples-and-strategies/
In addition, any self-respecting company invests huge sums in developing a system for internal use. Through them, employees mark the beginning and end of their working day, submit vacation/sick leave requests, perform administrative operations, and more. In both cases, training is needed (even if it is of the walk-through type), since each program and system has its specifics.

Creating interconnected cells

7. Creating interconnected cells where flow and download are the order of the day. – We can interpret this to mean that your related processes must be in order and not obstructed. Throughout the day and at the end of the day, it’s the results that matter. – In today’s dynamic work environment, communication between different teams and units in the company implies the coordination of work so that everyone moves together, at the same pace towards achieving results. More and more frequently, the need for all components to be ready and assembled into a finished product in a minimum time (a type of Just-In-Time production/delivery) is seen. In this case, problems may arise under force majeure circumstances that disrupt the production time (technical problems with hardware/software, illness of an employee, etc.). More on the topic: “Kaizen and the 20 keys to workplace improvement (of Iwao Kobayashi): Real Examples“, https://ossalumni.org/kaizen-and-the-20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-of-iwao-kobayashi-real-examples/

Inventory and lead time

8. Reduced inventory and lead time. Addressing overproduction and reducing costs and deadlines. – This is a rather broad topic because in each sector of the economy and individually for each company, understandings are different. In IT development, inventory often refers to the specialized software required to create the code that must run an application or program. In this regard, apart from the physical machine (laptop/computer) and possibly (though not necessary) office supplies, no other inventory is required. However, more attention should be paid here to the implementation time, which is a dual concept, as it depends on the task of the guarantor such as the set of features that the product must have and the experience of the developers. When we are talking about a team consisting of developers with different experiences or a newly formed one, the maximum efficiency and minimum execution time would be there when they are together, physically in one place, so that they can discuss the cases without wasting time through other communication channels. With an established team and/or one formed by sufficiently proven developers, it is permissible to work remotely, however, the place and time together cannot be replaced by the virtual environment. Reference: “What is Kaizen (continuous improvement)?”, https://bvop.org/learnagile/kaizen/ (BVOP)

Support and training

9. Support and training for employees. – The importance of team cohesion has already been mentioned. Dynamics in the IT sector are often tied to jumping from one language to another and from one technology to another. Before the start of the project, the technology is reduced to familiarization on the part of the management teams, who can already assess whether additional training is needed for the developers to help them in the work process. On the other hand, there are team buildings, whose beneficial impact on work is present, both in newly formed teams and in established ones. Team building is associated with costs for the company, training in a given technology is usually at the guarantor’s expense and is bound by deadlines and additional clauses in the contracts.

Rhythmic work

10. Disciplined, rhythmic work. Synchronized systems where all parts work together. – This is where we have to mention the difficulty in synchronization, especially when we talk about the app and software development. Writing codes is something as individual as a person’s handwriting. In this case, I would encourage the developer members to clarify in advance exactly how they will create the code, so that unnecessary time is not wasted if one has to take over the work of another due to illness for example, and confusion or misunderstanding arises from the different writing styles(1+ 2+3=6, 3+3=6, as well as 1+5=6). For a successful team and the execution of the sprints, it is necessary to speak the same language and go in the same direction. After the synchronization of the rhythm and the way of creation, we can talk about discipline and duration. The main obligation is to observe the working hours in the first place, in the specified hours with the necessary breaks, no more, no less. Overtiredness leads to low performance, as well as the quality of leisure time. Reference: “The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples“, https://agileprogramming.org/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-explained-examples/ (Agileprogramming.org)

Cross function

11. Working cross-functionally. Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change departments to gain experience in other areas as well. – The case of cross-functional work is very specific. It can be applied to closely related fields, or a Python programmer can also be proficient in Java, and/or C#, and/or C++. In practice, if you know one of the languages and know what you want to do, with the help of different “dictionaries” you can learn another language since things are identical. The same goes for an engineer specializing in router support to transfer to a team servicing firewalls or switches, etc. The individual factor also comes into play here: whether a worker would like to change teams for a broader knowledge of technologies/processes or wants to specialize narrowly in a single one. Both types of employees are needed. I am a supporter of narrow specialization due to the dynamic development of technologies and the constant development of new ones. On the other hand, people with more horizons of knowledge can always be a pillar of support in case there is a need in one of the other departments.

Reduce maintenance time

12. Reduction of die and machine changeover time for more flexible operation. (Logically, in processes where machines and tools are not involved, you can focus on reducing process time for your operations) – Again we have a relative answer: Based on the foundation that team members must have knowledge and experience, developers should also have sufficient availability of libraries (if we are talking about a programming language), thus they will save time in redundantly writing code that already exists, removing errors from it and verifying that it works correctly. However, this is not always so clean due to the human factor. Reference: “Kaizen methodology for workplace improvement“, https://bpedia.org/kaizen-methodology-to-workplace-improvement/ (BPEDIA)


13. Defects. Defect management, including defective parts and connections. Monitor, control, and manage your defects. Look for the causes and strive to avoid them.

Maintenance of machines by people

14. Maintenance of machines by people who work with them, not by outside specialists. This allows constant adjustment and minimal downtime. Interpret this as the idea that you should maintain your systems and products yourself, not an outside firm. You know your products and technology best. – focusing on a modern corporation is quite possible. We have computer support staff, electrical technicians, and in some cases plumbers available. It is often the case that these positions are provided by the owner of the business building, not so much by the tenants, but in terms of company inventory, each company prioritizes exactly what they will be responsible for and needed.

Saving resources

15. Protection. Saving resources to avoid waste, both for the company and for society and the environment. – To the extent that this point can be interpreted, conservation can mean the human factor. In a software development company, this is the main driver. Overloading employees is equated with pollution, from the point of view that their fatigue or dislike of the activity can lead to undesirable results. A satisfied employee, regardless of his status, is more productive than his depressed colleague. Along with this, the human being’s natural desire for help and assistance is stimulated when his needs are met in the non-work world. Reference: “Every Scrum Master must know the Kaizen principles“, https://wikipedia-lab.org/every-scrum-master-must-know-the-kaizen-principles/(Wikipedia-lab)
From here on out, I don’t see much need for the others, at least as far as some kind of Customer Support and Software Development is concerned.


16. Efficiency. Balancing financial issues with other areas that indirectly affect spending. – In no small part of today’s economy we have guarantors and executors. The IT sector is strongly related to software and works in the Internet space. Whatever software is ordered, the guarantor must have the financial ability to afford it.


17. Zero monitoring. Building systems that avoid the need for constant human monitoring. Instead, create a team that works to maintain and improve your technology. – Thus described, I have observed this point indirectly in high-tech productions, more specifically in the VW factory. In one of the assembly stages of the cars, the room is entered only to check or make minor repairs to the robots responsible for the process. In Bulgaria, I do not know that we have conglomerates of a similar caliber. Reference: Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization, https://www.vbprojects.org/modern-kaizen-principles-and-keys-to-workforce-optimization/ (VBProjects)

Waste disposal

18. Waste. Constantly identifying and eliminating things that either do not add value or even destroy it. These can be processes, ways of working, and even roles or positions. Anything that does not help you should be removed from your work. – I understand this point as a change of management or restructuring from the point of view of innovations, at least from the point of view of a software company. Physical waste in the sector is almost zero. It is a different matter if we are talking about laboratories that produce robots, for example. Reference: 20 Agile Kaizen keys to workplace improvement, https://www.libraryofmu.org/20-agile-kaizen-keys-to-workplace-improvement/ (LibraryOfMu)


19. Partnerships between suppliers. Working with suppliers, making them part of the ever-improving chain, rather than fighting them.

Concurrent Engineering and Taguchi methods

20. Technology and competitive engineering. Understanding and using methods such as Concurrent Engineering and Taguchi methods. – As far as I could find out, these methods are not the most preferred, and together with that, they refer more to the physical production industry than to a virtual one.

By Samantha Rhine

Samantha Rhine, Editor-in-Chief of BusinessPad.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.