[ kahy-zen ]
/ kaɪˈzɛn /
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a business philosophy or system that is based on making positive changes on a regular basis, as to improve productivity.
an approach to one’s personal or social life that focuses on continuous improvement.
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Origin of kaizen

From Japanese: literally, “continuous improvement”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is kaizen?

Kaizen is a business philosophy based on making small, positive changes over time, such as for improving productivity.

A Japanese concept, kaizen refers to taking small steps toward a goal over a longer period of time instead of taking big steps that may be difficult. Kaizen is most often practiced in businesses and the workplace, where the concept is used to increase profits by consistently and slowly improving productivity, a product, or something similar.

Kaizen is also an approach to improving your own life by making one small change a day or spending a small amount of time, such as one minute a day, toward improvement. You might hear of people using kaizen to learn something, improve in a sport or hobby, or create healthier food habits. Many people like kaizen because it’s much easier to commit a small amount of time each day to slowly achieve a goal than it is to commit to a big change all at once.

Example: Ever since I discovered the concept of kaizen, my work productivity has risen tenfold.

Where does kaizen come from?

The first records in English of the term kaizen come from around the 1980s. It is a Japanese term that literally means “continuous improvement.”

One of the most famous uses of kaizen is from the automobile manufacturer Toyota. The company lists kaizen as one of the main pillars of its operation. Toyota encourages workers to point out where improvements could be made and constantly adapts its workflow and production design to constantly improve its workplace efficiency.

Did you know … ?

What are some words that often get used in discussing kaizen?

How is kaizen used in real life?

Kaizen is most often used in business and work contexts but is also used in self-improvement discussions.

Try using kaizen!

True or False?

Going to work every day is an example of kaizen.

British Dictionary definitions for kaizen

/ Japanese (kaɪˈzɛn) /

a philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices that underlies total quality management and just-in-time business techniques

Word Origin for kaizen

literally: improvement
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012