One person or company did not create Kaizen, but rather multiple experts collaborated and created tools that would eventually evolve to what we know as Kaizen. W. Edwards Deming, an American management consultant and statistician, built upon Walter A. Shewhart’s concepts of statistical process controls to develop management concepts with cycles and the idea of improvement. Following World War II, Deming was sent to Japan to study agricultural production problems and other issues in the nation damaged by the war.
Deming and other experts from America collaborated with Japanese business managers to come up with new ways to increase productivity in the facility and improve product quality for the consumer. In 1951, the Deming Circle, which of four steps that cycle through design, production, sales, and research, was reworked by the Japanese and was developed into the Plan > Do > Check > Act (PDCA) Cycle. The PDCA cycle is an essential component to Kaizen.
The Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese company known for being able to harness the teachings of Deming and others successfully. The first hint of Kaizen was when Toyota used quality circles in the 1950s as part of the manufacturing process. Quality control circles are groups of employees with the same or similar job who get together on a regular basis to define, analyze, and find solutions to issues related to their work. Eventually, the use of quality circles. Deming’s teachings, and the Training Within Industry (TWI) program all led to the development of the Toyota Production System. Masaaki Imai, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, studied the Toyota Production System and its Lean principles and was the first to introduce the idea of Kaizen to both Europe and North America. Imai went on to found the Kaizen Institute in 1985 to promote Kaizen worldwide.
Kaizen is now used worldwide by a variety of companies. The idea of continuous improvement encourages workers from all levels to involved with problem solving and increases an organization’s productivity greatly. While this is just a brief and condensed version of Kaizen’s history, it is important to know the key characters involved in the conception of Kaizen: Deming, Toyota, and Imai.