Chapter 5. Waste Elimination, Kaizen, and Continuous Improvement: Misdefined, Misunderstood

Among the best-accepted concepts in the pursuit of process improvement are: (1) lean, defined as elimination of wastes, and (2) kaizen events as the dominant way to achieve lean and continuous improvement. This chapter takes a close, critical look and finds flaws in those viewpoints. It finds them deficient as to definition and also in comprehension. The discussion begins with lean/waste elimination and follows with kaizen events and true continuous improvement.


Current definitions of lean/TPS are oddly slanted toward one of the enabling tool sets rather than focused on more clearly competitive factors. Wikipedia leads off its definition as: "Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy focusing on reduction of the seven wastes ...."[57] Is losing weight the definition of a good diet? No; it is better health, increased capabilities, longer life. So it must be for lean.

More fittingly, lean employs a large set of concepts and tools to reduce delays and quicken response in all processes. That is fundamental lean, with time compression as its main focus.[58] The time-compression viewpoint does not lack for its adherents, past and present. Lean's predecessor, just in time, had the same primary focus (still, its definitions also sometimes deviated.[59]) When the textile-clothing-retail triumvirate took its remarkably successful JIT-lean-supply ...

Get Best Practices in Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement: A Deeper Look now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.