In today’s blog, we detail six different types of kaizen methodologies. But first, let’s briefly get into what kaizen is. 

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning change for the better or continuous improvement. It is a business philosophy that encourages all employees at all levels of a company to work together to regularly make incremental improvements to processes and operations. Furthermore, teamwork and collaboration is core to kaizen — team meetings are held often to discuss improvements, changes, and projects. Essentially, kaizen holds everyone accountable for the success of the company. So, everyone should strive at all times to improve the business model. 

Kaizen offers companies many valuable benefits. For example:

  • — Greater employee satisfaction 
  • — Improved retention
  • — Reducing waste
  • — Simplifying work processes
  • — Greater efficiency and productivity
  • — Improved safety

What are Six Types of Kaizen Methodologies?

6 Types of Kaizen Methodologies

Because kaizen is more of a philosophy than a specific tool, there are various methodologies that can be used in combination with one another to carry out incremental changes. 

1. PDCA Cycle

The PDCA cycle is one of the most well known types of kaizen methodologies. It is an essential part of the lean manufacturing philosophy and is a framework for carrying out change. Basically, it is a simple four-stage method that helps teams to avoid recurring mistakes and improve processes. The PDCA cycle stands for:

  1. 1. Plan — define which problem you’d like to solve and how you’ll achieve it
  2. 2. Do — execute your plan and implement any necessary changes
  3. 3. Check — evaluate your results and take note of what worked and what didn’t
  4. 4. Act — make changes and improvements based on the previous step

Because the PDCA cycle is an improvement cycle, these steps can be repeated until a team reaches their desired result.

2. PDSA Cycle

Similar to the PDCA cycle, the PDSA cycle is another widely used type of kaizen methodology. The PDSA cycle is a development of the PDCA cycle. That is to say, the letters of PDSA stand for the same things as PDCA, except it uses ‘S’ instead of ‘C’. As a result, the PDSA cycle stands for:

  1. 1. Plan — define which problem you’d like to solve and how you’ll achieve it
  2. 2. Do — execute your plan and implement any necessary changes
  3. 3. Study — thoroughly analyze your results and examine your learning
  4. 4. Act — make changes and improvements based on the previous step

The reason for it being ‘study’ instead of ‘check’ is because the check stage is for measuring improvement and then just moving on to the next phase. On the other hand, in the study stage, you’re spending time really analyzing things. 


DMAIC is a problem-solving model that drives Lean Six Sigma. In essence, it’s a five step method used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization’s existing processes. When improving a process, if the problem is complex, or the existing risks are high, DMAIC is the kaizen methodology you should use. DMAIC stands for:

  1. 1. Define — determine the problem you’ll tackle
  2. 2. Measure — ensure that the problem can be measured and that you understand the current performance of the process before you start trying to improve it
  3. 3. Analyze — understand that root cause of the problem
  4. 4. Improve — once the cause of the problem has been determined, develop solutions and implement them
  5. 5. Control — ensure that the new, improved process is stable and under control
4. A3

A3, or also known as A3 report, is one of the most effective types of kaizen methodologies used for determining the root cause of a problem. It was developed as a part of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and is a single-page document that reflects the results of the whole process. Essentially, the A3 report requires the problem owner to go through the model’s different steps until there is a solution to be implemented. Additionally, the owner needs to communicate actively with his/her teammates and the mentor of the project. 

The A3 report typically contains seven steps that include:

  1. 1. Background — identify the problem and describe it 
  2. 2. Current situation — describe the current situation in the area where the issue is
  3. 3. Set targets/goals — state what you’d like to achieve
  4. 4. Root cause analysis — determine the root cause of the problem
  5. 5. Countermeasures — start offering solutions
  6. 6. Implementation — present an implementation plan that includes a list of all the actions that will be applied to get the countermeasures in place
  7. 7. Follow-up — measure the actual results, regardless of if it’s positive or negative, and confirm the effect of your countermeasures 

However, it is important to note that the A3 report can have different variations. 

5. Quick Wins

Kaizen improvement projects can stretch out over many weeks or months. Consequently, this can lead to lack of management support and interest, drainage of resources, lost momentum from team members, and budget overrun. But, this is where a ‘quick win’ comes in — the key elements of a quick win is right there in the two words: it needs to be quick and successful. Basically, a quick win is already a developed solution idea — it’s in the improve phase (of DMAIC) already. Therefore, the only determinant left is ‘how to implement’. It is still necessary to complete the define and measure phases to clarify the scope and to be able to measure a change. However, there is no need to go through the analyze phase. Quick wins don’t usually require a formal team; often a natural work team can identify the problem and implement a quick solution. 

Quick Win Criteria

For a solution to be considered a quick win, the improvement project almost always needs be completed with the people closest to the work and with the resources close at hand. What’s more, in order for you to successfully deploy this type of kaizen methodology, the following criteria need to be highly considered:

  • — The root cause of the problem has been identified and is known
  • — There’s an obvious solution to the root cause of the problem
  • — The change requires minimal or no capital expenditure
  • — The change is low risk and there is certainty that the change will generate a positive impact
  • — It can be implemented quickly (less than two weeks)
  • — The project team has support to implement the desired changes

Quick wins must also have implemented control plans in place before being considered complete. In addition, it is recommended that improvements are implemented as soon as possible. But, doing so without a control plan is worse than no implementation at all. 

6. Engineering Projects

Engineering projects is one of the best types of kaizen methodologies used to help foster the continuous improvement culture within an organization. It involves using knowledge base documents, such as ‘lessons learned’ and maintenance preventative information (MPI), to ultimately improve your overall manufacturing processes. In other words, these documents are a form of information sharing and helps serve as a roadmap for your company on how to do business and provide the most effective way to operate.

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned is the knowledge gained from the process of performing a project, regardless of if it’s positive or negative. Moreover,  the purpose of documenting lessons learned is to repeat the positives aspects, and not the mistakes. By capturing and regularly updating the lessons learned, this can help keep the project on track. Furthermore, it can also help continually improve how organizations execute projects in the long run. To effectively document and use lessons learned, here are five steps you should follow:

  1. 1. Identify — determine if there are any comments and recommendations for future projects
  2. 2. Document — document the detailed lessons learned in a report so that it can be shared and retained for future use
  3. 3. Analyze — Review and organize the lessons learned so that they can be applied and shared with other teams
  4. 4. Store — store all lesson learned reports on a shared drive or in a cloud solution
  5. 5. Retrieve — set up a keyword search capability when storing all lessons learned reports to make them easily retrievable at any time during and after the project
Maintenance Preventative Information (MPI)

Maintenance preventative information is the knowledge gained from the process of identifying non-value adding maintenance-related activities. Basically, the purpose of documenting maintenance preventative information is to save time on maintenance activities and to essentially, not reinvent the wheel. The process of effectively documenting and using maintenance preventative information is similar, if not identical, to lessons learned.