The three “K”s of Lean

Within the world of Lean, there are three main words used within the domain of improvement: Kaizen, Kaikaku and Kakushin. But what is exactly the difference? In this post, we will guide you through the core definitions to remember the difference between these Japanese words.


Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement using small incremental changes. It translates as change for the better. Kai means change, Zen means for the better. Lean IT Kaizen is an approach for solving problems and forms the basis of incremental continual improvement in organizations. A problem is a difficulty that has to be resolved or dealt with. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen means continuous improvement involving everyone, managers and workers alike, every day and everywhere, providing structure to process improvement. Kaizen is about continuously improving: everyday, everyone and everywhere. Many small improvements implemented with Kaizen produce faster results with less risk. In IT terms, we can equate this to a minor update to a piece of software.



Lean also recognizes that there are moments that more radical, step change is necessary. This type of change is known as Kaikaku. This refers to a revolutionary change to the existing situation. Following the software example, Kaikaku would be the upgrade of an application currently in use from a release level to a new release level. Software providers will often substantially change both the technical basis of the software and its functionality. For both IT and the user community, this means a large step change.



A third type of improvement known within Lean is Kakushin. The idea here is that some change will form a complete departure from the current situation. It is about innovation, transformation, reform and renewal. Again, in our software example, this may mean replacing a complete application with a different application that supports the process in a completely different way, for example a web-based application that fully automates the registration of orders, the submission of invoices and the generation of a picking order at order fulfilment. This kind of change will entail the disappearance of many roles and functions within a business. Both from technological and business process perspectives, this example represents a complete departure from the current way of working. Another example of Kakushin is where the organization standardizes a process and supporting software across the entire organization where previously various groups had different processes and applications to achieve similar goals.

It’s Time For Lean!

It’s the right time for your organization to adopt Lean if:

  • You have an ambitious plan for taking your organization to the next level and need a reliable way to reallocate resources and achieve your goals.
  • Market share or financials are stagnate and need a dynamic and predictable approach to turn things around.
  • Budget cuts or attrition are affecting business operations and need a proven and effective approach to get the organization back on track.
  • The staff has tremendous experience and need a rapid way to bridge their skillsets to drive innovation.
  • You have seen Lean in action and it’s the right time for your organization to adopt those competitive advantages.

In these cases, and many others, the right solution is effective Lean adoption… and we are here to help.

This website trusts you are already familiar with Continuous Improvement and Lean Management concepts based on the Toyota Production System (TPS) and are looking for a practical and reliable approach to implement Lean in your organization, possibly for the first time. You’ll find everything you need to get started here.

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker


Interested in learning more?…

Introducing the Akamai Business System