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The Spirit of Kaizen by Robert Maurer • continuous improvement • operational excellence

book cover of The Spirit of Kaizen - continuous improvement

The Spirit of Kaizen talks about the continuous improvement process. Generally speaking, it’s about taking many tiny steps over an extended period of time which lead to huge results. It is more than Six Sigma where some companies may have conducted improvement projects a few months ago and now they might take it easy thinking maybe in a couple of months from now we are going to take a look at something new.  Kaizen is self-discipline and the commitment that everybody has to present. So as soon as you completed one project a day ago you should be starting to do something today and so every day is a challenge to find the better way of doing your job. The pursuit of operational excellence never ends.

The book is not a typical lean book going through best practices in building the most efficient companies. It is more about neuroscience, behaviour, psychology, common sense and then it moves to operational excellence which is all about getting work done better, quicker, cheaper, while delivering superior value to customers. This book is perfect for anyone looking for a quick read that will provide you with sound advice and specific business examples of continuous improvement that you can easily transfer to whatever goals you are trying to accomplish.

In order to achieve operational excellence, you need to have business processes that are:

  • effective and efficient at delivering added value
  • tools and methods for design, enhancement, and control 
  • the right mindset and behaviours where everybody wants to and is able to be operationally excellent
  • company-wide alignment of strategies, priorities, and decisions

The term ‘Kaizen” comes from the Japanese language. Loosely translated, it is “change for the better”. Here and there it is also called a lean event, a rapid improvement event, a continuous improvement or a WorkOut, but they are all describing the same thing. Essentially, it’s about taking unnecessary activities out of the process to streamline and make it more efficient. Kaizen is a well, structured and facilitated approach to improve a work area, a business unit, a process, or even an entire value stream. 

When it comes to tools, interestingly Kaizen does not require any strict data analysis as Six Sigma does. It bases on collective first-hand knowledge and expertise of the right people. These people are usually operators, stakeholders, and customers of the process or value stream. 

Last but not least, I’d like to mention that the book is aimed at managers, but I believe that anyone would benefit from applying the principles described inside as it details a scientific and rational approach to solving problems. In order to achieve that you have to remember about a few simple steps which you have to go through in each process:

  • thinking about solutions by asking the right type of questions
  • breaking an issue down into smaller and more manageable chunks
  • supporting creativity

The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Small Step at a Time
by Robert Maurer and Leigh Ann Hirschman


Final rating:

Interesting story
Complexity of ideas
Flourish language

Book details:

Size: 181 pages
Published: 2012


Other information and reviews of this book on Goodreads:

Other useful links:
Maurer’s website:
Kaizen on Wikipedia:
Website of Kaizen Institute:
Other books about project management: The Age of Agile by Stephen Denning

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