using kaizen rapid improvement to break through the six sigma methodology

“Kaizen” is a Japanese word that can be translated to mean “improvement” or “change for the better.” The two characters that make up the word are “Kai” (meaning “change”) and “zen” (meaning “good”).

In the origins of Lean, Kaizen was practiced by all employees. It was a part of everyone’s job to identify and implement small incremental improvements in the workplace.  Today, Kaizen is practiced in many organizations as a daily improvement process, built upon the discipline of the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycles. The Kaizen model developed by Hansei is structured but non-bureaucratic, ensuring you engage everybody in identifying problems and improving the overall workplace.

Mutual respect between leaders, staff, customers, suppliers, and partners is critical to Kaizen. This element of mutual respect drives leaders to engage everyone in their Kaizen efforts, with the belief that everybody takes pride in doing good work. This includes the idea that everybody has an important role to play in continuous improvement and that the people doing the work are the experts and the ones who can help improve in ways both large and small. As such, leaders strive to make Kaizen part of everyone’s jobs, empowering their staff to improve their work in order to provide the highest quality goods and services to their customers at the lowest cost, with safety and satisfaction in mind.

Here at Hansei we have taken this traditional approach to rapid improvement and embedded it within the typical six sigma structure of DMAIC.  This gives the event itself structure, whilst at the same time providing the teams with clarity on where they are on the event improvement journey.  Linked to the overall business strategy, Kaizen can be a key component of positive change within an organisation. We provide the knowledge, experience and mentorship to allow you as an organisation to gain the traction required.

The Define Phase is the first phase of the Hansei Kaizen process. The emphasis in this phase is to create the event scope, this is vital as analysis is undertaken on what can be achieved in the allotted time with the resource available. A high-level map of the process is then created to allow us to truly understand the needs of the customers of the process. This is a critical phase in which the team outlines the project focus for themselves and the leadership of the organisation.

Measurement is critical throughout the life of the event. As the team starts collecting data they focus on both the process as well as measuring what customers care about. In the Measure Phase, the team refines the measurement definitions and determines the current performance or the baseline of the process that is being studied, therefore demonstrating immediate results

The Analyse Phase is often not given enough attention and, without analysis, teams jump to solutions before knowing the true root causes of the issues. The result is teams who implement solutions but don’t resolve the problem! These efforts waste time, consume resources, create more variation and, often, cause new problems. This is paramount as with any targeted event you do not have an infinite amount of time or resource in which to achieve your objectives.

Once the event teams have determined the root causes it’s time to develop solutions. The Improve Phase is where the team brainstorms solutions, pilots process changes, implements solutions and lastly, collects data to confirm there is measurable improvement. A structured improvement effort can lead to innovative and elegant solutions that improve the baseline measure and, ultimately, the customer experience.

Now that the process problem is fixed and improvements are in place, the team must ensure that the process maintains the gains. In the Control Phase the team is focused on creating a control plan to continue measuring the success of the updated process and mitigate any risk to performance. Once in place, the team hands these plans off to the Process Owner for ongoing maintenance.


Structured Kaizen is a very important part of any Continuous Improvement strategy and is hugely beneficial in driving cultural change across the organisation.  At Hansei, we have a proven track record of not only delivering true value through our approach to Kaizen, but also of demonstrable improvements in Employee engagement as a result.  If you would like to discuss how we can help you with your rapid improvement events then please get in touch.

Let’s Start a Conversation

If you want to find out more about how Hansei Technology can save you more time and money, call Michael on 07877 556 023 or Steve on 07824 307 715 for a demonstration