Book Review: How to Do Kaizen

Many months ago, Norman Bodek sent  me a copy of the book, How to Do Kaizen: A New Path to Innovation (its sub, sub-title is Empowering Everyone to Be a Problem Solver).  Norman, the indisputable lean literature pioneer from the west,  co-authored the book with Bunji Tozawa, a prolific kaizen author in his own right. Norman is also the editor and publisher (PCS Inc.) of the book. The work was published in January of 2010.

My humble take is that How to Do Kaizen is a very important book about voluntary kaizen!

At 425 pages, the book is long. It's probably longer than it has to be and sometimes it could be more cogent.  (Of course, I am certainly not the most economical writer!) That said, it is clearly written from the heart from the perspective of the authors' passion about the subject matter and the undeniable sentiment of respect for the worker. Indeed, much of daily kaizen is about first making work more human/easier.

How to Do Kaizen imparts a tremendous amount of practical know-how and know-why around daily kaizen, within what the authors' call kaizen systems and the application of quick and easy kaizen. The book contains a ton of real-life examples.

Here are some of the many "nuggets" within the book:

  • The average U.S. worker comes up with one new idea every seven years...and only 32% of  those suggestions are implemented. A pretty pitiful underutilization of human creativity! Autoliv, Brigham City, a two-time Shingo Prize winner, is profiled within the book. In 2009, they had implemented 63 suggestions/person. Autoliv's 2010 goal is 96. When training companies in quick and easy kaizen, the authors target 2 implemented suggestions/person/month.
  • Daily, voluntary kaizen's "juice" comes from implemented suggestions, no matter how simple the improvement may be. Doing, followed by documenting and sharing via simple "kaizen memos" help capture the improvements while facilitating recognition and propagating the spirit and content of the kaizen. Several months ago, I wrote a post on Kaizen in the Laundry Room…and My Domestic Shortcomings. See the picture, below for my version of that improvement as documented in a type of simple kaizen memo. Click to enlarge.
  • Norman's interview with Tom Hartman, Senior Director Lean Consulting, Autoliv Americas provides some outstanding insight into Autoliv's daily kaizen journey. The Brigham City facility went from less than 0.5 implemented suggestions/employee/year in 1999 to 63 in 2009. Hartman details how the plant ventured from "creature comfort kaizen" to daily kaizen that was also well-aligned with enterprise's value objectives (quality, productivity, machine reliability, etc.). He further shares how this transformation was facilitated by things like plant-wide TPS training and quality workshops, TPM events, jidoka application, leaders evolving into coaches, transition of the suggestion system from individual focused to team focused, improved visual management, and institution of leader standard work.
  • Good daily kaizen coaches (team leaders, supervisors, managers et al), use the following types of keywords:
    • Observation keywords. Help people notice problems - "duplicated effort," "complicated," "tedious," " tiring," etc.
    • Ideation keywords. Help people come up with countermeasures - "eliminate," " combine," rearrange," "simplify," etc.
    • Implementation keywords. Encourage implementation ASAP - "for the time being," "start with part of the problem," "if it doesn't work, try something different," etc.

This book exudes engagement and empowerment and reinforces how simple, fundamental stuff can literally change a culture and leverage the creative talents of each and every person. If you want to transition from system-driven kaizen to principle-driven kaizen, this is an extremely helpful book.

Related posts: Kaizen in the Laundry Room…and My Domestic Shortcomings, Book Review: Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation

There are 2 Comments

markrhamel's picture

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the comment! Yes, that statistic is mind-blowing. It's a bit depressing to say the least. But...think of how much better we can get!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Chris Paulsen's picture


What an amazing statistic about American workers. 1 idea every 7 years and less than a third are implemented. That sounds like 1 idea is implemented per 20 year career..... apparently we can use all the Kaizen help we can get.