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Using the Kaizen Philosophy to Reach Your Business Goals

You know that any business organization that fails to innovate or embrace change risks becoming irrelevant in the market today. From technological advances to changes in consumer expectations, a lot of rapid changes are occurring in the business space.

Small and mid-sized businesses face the most significant challenges when trying to penetrate the market and remain profitable amid stiff competition. But how can these organizations reach their business goals with so much competition out there? One way is to use time-tested methods of goal setting and accomplishment. Companies can succeed in the market if the management teams adopt continuous improvement as a way of business survival.

Small and medium enterprises should analyze the markets, understand their consumers, and implement creative business improvement strategies. One such approach is the Kaizen philosophy, which several world-renowned firms embrace.

Here are simple yet effective strategies for business survival, anchored in the Kaizen philosophy.



Adopting the Kaizen Culture

Kaizen is a Japanese word derived from two words, “Kai,” meaning “to make better or change,” and “zen” meaning “good.” The word, therefore, means continuous improvement. When used in the business context, Kaizen describes the effort that a business puts to achieve sustained, positive change. The Japan-based vehicle manufacturer, Toyota Motor Company, popularized the philosophy.

The underlying aim of the Kaizen philosophy is to create a friendly, motivating workplace, where employees cooperate to deliver more than the call of duty.

In a workplace that applies the Kaizen approach, workers have a sense of self-worth and devote their expertise to continuous improvement of the firm’s performance. 

The employees, who are an integral component of any business that seeks market success, continually work to drive the company to higher levels of success. Therefore, adopting the Kaizen philosophy results in continuous improvement for the firm. Ultimately, the business can remain profitable and competitive in the market. 

Learning from Successful Companies That Continuously Improve

The relevance of the Kaizen culture in the business domain is evident in several companies that have achieved significant market success after adopting this philosophy.

Here are some of the global industry leaders who attribute their accomplishments to the adoption of the Kaizen philosophy in their business models.

  • Toyota Motor Company
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Nestle
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Starbucks

The companies use the Kaizen method to streamline operations, save time, cut operational costs, boost efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction. The employees in these companies are looking for areas that need improvements, and ways of doing things differently.

Since the workers are a part of their respective companies, they devote their efforts to creating solutions to the problems that arise in the business process, resulting in continuous improvements. Small and mid-sized firms can learn from Toyota, Ford, Nestle, Starbucks, and others, as they pursue continuous improvement to stay relevant in their industries.

Read: How to Set Stretch Business Goals

Implementing the Kaizen Philosophy for Continuous Business Improvement

In the present business environment, constant adjustments and market shifts keep disrupting the conventional approaches to doing business. Business entities have to deal with a wide range of changes. For example, emerging technologies that change the way companies do business and regulatory actions that make certain business practices irrelevant.

Here are the Kaizen implementation strategies that companies can adopt to improve and survive the cutthroat competition in the various industries. 

Employee Motivation through Kaizen

Employee motivation is an essential factor in a firm’s efforts to achieve sustainable success. Small and mid-sized businesses often have small budgets, but that does not stop them from motivating their workers.

For example, the management should create a safe and friendly work environment where workspaces should be ventilated, spacious to allow free movement, and clean.

Supervisors and managers should treat the employees with dignity and respect and be willing to listen to the workers in case they have concerns. The manager should regularly interact with the workers to see if there is an issue they would like to share. Besides, engaging employees in decision-making, especially where results relate to them can go a long way in making the staff members feel appreciated.

Other employee motivation strategies include recognizing employees for a job well done and offering professional development opportunities. Performance-based bonuses and commensurate pay are great motivators. Motivated employees are satisfied with their work, and put in extra effort to pursue the business objectives.

Identification of Problems

In every business process, there is always something to improve. The management should encourage employees to always analyze their work areas to discover the small problems that may affect efficiency.

It could be unnecessary steps that lengthen production or service delivery by a few seconds, which builds up to several hours of lost time in a month. The problem could be inefficient machines, or duplication of roles, which influence the efficiency of a specific business process. Toyota Production System, also known as TPS focuses on waste reduction and process consistency.

When the employees are looking around their workplace and discovering the small problems, they are gathering useful information that will inform actions to improve the business processes.

Read: How to Set Realistic Business Goals With Examples

Creativity in Solving Problems

Kaizen goes beyond the mere identification of problems. The goal is to solve them and enhance efficiency and performance.

Once employees find a problem, they submit the issue to a designated team that handles the challenges. The management should create convenient channels of communication to allow workers from all levels to share their information with their colleagues, members of the management, and other relevant teams.

Teamwork and collaboration are essential in this regard.

Employees should cooperate in sharing ideas and creating practical solutions to the business problems at hand. As they report the issues they have identified, employees voice their thoughts on how to resolve the problem. The teams work together to develop creative solutions to the challenges. 

Better System, Processes, and Practices

The philosophy behind incremental improvement is rooted in the understanding that systems, processes, and practices can always be refined. It encourages a mindset of constant questioning and curiosity: How can this process be more efficient? Can this task be done more effectively? By focusing on the small details, businesses can gradually enhance their operations without overwhelming their employees or resources.

For example, consider a manufacturing company that aims to increase its production efficiency. Instead of investing in entirely new machinery, the company adopts a Kaizen approach. Employees are encouraged to identify small changes in their daily routines that could save time or reduce errors. One worker might notice that rearranging tools on the assembly line could shave seconds off each unit’s production time. Though this seems minor, when multiplied across thousands of units, the time saved significantly boosts overall productivity.

Such incremental changes are typically easier to implement and less intimidating than major overhauls. They require minimal investment but can lead to substantial long-term gains.

Adopt an Innovative Culture 

Continuous improvement entails staying at par with emerging market trends and dynamics. A business organization can only keep up with those changes if it adopts a culture of innovation. 

An important aspect of the Kaizen philosophy is innovation, where employees have space and the support to generate new ideas and convert them into new processes, products, and market solutions. Innovative culture may include a reward for workers who come up with practical methods that enhance business performance. 

An innovative culture helps the organization always to have new approaches to deal with hidden and emerging problems, resulting in continuous improvements.

Small and mid-sized companies can emulate the large firms that have adopted the Kaizen philosophy. Management should encourage employees to work together, share creative ideas, and take part in the problem-solving and innovation processes. 

This way, employees develop a sense of belonging to the company, and the firm will reap innovative solutions, resulting in continuous improvement and sustainable competitiveness in the market.


18In business, staying still means certain doom. Entrepreneurs and business owners need to constantly be thinking of ways to make themselves and their businesses better. Using this method is on sure-fire way to do that.

Also read:

SMART Business Goals: Definition, Examples, Benefits, and Drawbacks

How to Make a To-Do List to Help Reach Your Goals

8 Business Goals for Social Media Marketing


This article was first published in 2018 but has been updated and expanded for 2023

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Lisa Michaels
Contributor: Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech.
Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels

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Find Your Way · Grow Your Business · Leading Your Team · Productivity · Your Mindset

Contributor: Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels

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