What is Kaizen? - The 5 S Approach

“Kaizen” refers to a Japanese word which means “improvement” or “change for the better”. Kaizen is defined as a continuous effort by each and every employee (from the CEO to field staff) to ensure improvement of all processes and systems of a particular organization.

Work for a Japanese company and you would soon realize how much importance they give to the process of Kaizen. The process of Kaizen helps Japanese companies to outshine all other competitors by adhering to certain set policies and rules to eliminate defects and ensure long term superior quality and eventually customer satisfaction.

Kaizen works on the following basic principle.

Change is for good”.

Kaizen means “continuous improvement of processes and functions of an organization through change”. In a layman’s language, Kaizen brings continuous small improvements in the overall processes and eventually aims towards organization’s success. Japanese feel that many small continuous changes in the systems and policies bring effective results than few major changes.

Kaizen process aims at continuous improvement of processes not only in manufacturing sector but all other departments as well. Implementing Kaizen tools is not the responsibility of a single individual but involves every member who is directly associated with the organization. Every individual, irrespective of his/her designation or level in the hierarchy needs to contribute by incorporating small improvements and changes in the system.


Following are the main elements of Six Sigma:

  • Teamwork
  • Personal Discipline
  • Improved Morale
  • Quality Circles
  • Suggestions for Improvement

Five S of Kaizen

“Five S” of Kaizen is a systematic approach which leads to foolproof systems, standard policies, rules and regulations to give rise to a healthy work culture at the organization. You would hardly find an individual representing a Japanese company unhappy or dissatisfied. Japanese employees never speak ill about their organization. Yes, the process of Kaizen plays an important role in employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction through small continuous changes and eliminating defects. Kaizen tools give rise to a well organized workplace which results in better productivity and yield better results. It also leads to employees who strongly feel attached towards the organization.

Let us understand the five S in Detail:

  1. SEIRI - SEIRI stands for Sort Out. According to Seiri, employees should sort out and organize things well. Label the items as “Necessary”, ”Critical”, ”Most Important”, “Not needed now”, “Useless and so on. Throw what all is useless. Keep aside what all is not needed at the moment. Items which are critical and most important should be kept at a safe place.

  2. SEITION - Seition means to Organize. Research says that employees waste half of their precious time searching for items and important documents. Every item should have its own space and must be kept at its place only.

  3. SEISO - The word “SEISO” means shine the workplace. The workplace ought to be kept clean. De-clutter your workstation. Necessary documents should be kept in proper folders and files. Use cabinets and drawers to store your items.

  4. SEIKETSU-SEIKETSU refers to Standardization. Every organization needs to have certain standard rules and set policies to ensure superior quality.

  5. SHITSUKE or Self Discipline - Employees need to respect organization’s policies and adhere to rules and regulations. Self discipline is essential. Do not attend office in casuals. Follow work procedures and do not forget to carry your identity cards to work. It gives you a sense of pride and respect for the organization.

Kaizen focuses on continuous small improvements and thus gives immediate results.

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