Kaizen and Getting Real (and a book update too) Matt 01 Feb 2006

20 comments Latest by Semi Anonymous Coward

Book update: Since people are asking, the Getting Real book is close. Very close. In fact, the content was finished and laid out but our recent workshop gave us inspiration for a few new essays. Once those are done we’ll pop ‘em in, finish the layout, and bring it on. It’s gonna be worth the wait. Stay tuned.

Speaking of Getting Real…While reading the Wikipedia entry on Kaizen, a Japanese term that means continuous improvement, I was struck by how some of the Getting Real concepts (multiple iterations, rapid prototyping, eliminating functional specs, etc.) could be viewed as fitting in with the idea of Kaizen.

The “zen” in Kaizen emphasizes the learn-by-doing aspect of improving production. This philosophy is focused in a different direction from the “command-and-control” improvement programs of the mid-20th century. Kaizen methodology includes making changes and looking at the results, then adjusting. Large-scale preplanning and extensive project scheduling are replaced by smaller experiments in improvement, which can be rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.

Related: Wabi-Sabi’s simplicity [SvN]

20 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Mike 01 Feb 06

The Economist magazine just did a “Survey of the Company” (see http://www.economist.com/printedition/index.cfm?d=20060121) that reviewed how companies need to reorganize and evolve. One of the articles (Inculcating Culture) referenced Toyota’s use of kaizen and other methods to empower employees. One of the many reasons why American automakers are unfortunately choking on Toyota’s dust.

ML 01 Feb 06

Hadn’t seen that Frank. Good to see others are making the connection too.

Faruk Ates 01 Feb 06

That would be Faruk, not Frank…

ML 01 Feb 06

Whoops, sorry Faruk!

Tim Almond 01 Feb 06

From a software tools perspective, Kaizen makes a lot of sense. It’s why I’m switching away from a closed environment (.net) towards open tools (like Ruby and Python).

A new software tool may be better than the previous tool, but often, it can also mean that you have to learn what human mistakes will appear in the new tool.

If the manufacturer forces you to drop a tool (like has happened with VB6), then there is a possibility that your quality will drop as you adapt yourself to the new tool.

Anonymous Coward 01 Feb 06

I smell a name for my new business.

Ian Waring 01 Feb 06

Kaizen is only part of the story. Kaikaku (“sudden radical improvement”) has it’s place too. Both help the elimination of stages/batches and improve flow. Then you come full circle to Kathy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users blog of a few weeks back (see http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/01/2006_hopespredi.html).

In the meantime, if anyone wants some bedtime reading, i’d recommend “lean thinking” by Womack and Jones. Or to the original source to an awful lot of Japanese inspiration and from which the Toyota Production System had it’s roots - “Out of the Crisis” or “The New Economics” by W Edwards Deming.

I thought 37signals staffers had read them all already :-)

Ian W.

Anonymous Coward 01 Feb 06

Oops, let me try that link to Kathy’s Blog again… here

1000 apologies…

Ian W.

sb 01 Feb 06

“I smell a name for my new business.”

Much Mo’ Kaizen

(.com of course.)

or else

Get Your Kaizen On
KaizenSoft
MicroKaizen
Kaizen Microsystems
I, Kaizen
Freakin’ Kaizen!
myKaizen
Whole Lotta Kaizen (I Wanna)
Kaizen: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore
Kaizen.org
The Smoking Kaizen
Kaizen & Kaizen
The Iron Kaizen
Trading Kaizen
KaizenLine
The Kaizen Show
(followed by The Keizen Report, of course.)
Keizenrama
Wal-Keizen
Keizen-Mart
The Keizen Depot
Best Keizen
K.aiz.en
The Kaizen Bunch
McKaizen’s
TGI Kaizen’s
O’Keizen’s

———-

I got tired. Sorry.

rhjr 01 Feb 06

From my understanding, “kaizen” translates more correctly to “continual change” (kai) “for the better” (zen). It means roughly the same thing - I just wanted to point out the individual meaning of the root words.

anon 02 Feb 06

SB,

Kaizen Soze?

José Bonnet 02 Feb 06

Mike’s comment (the first one) leads to an error page on The Economist. It is a premium content article, you can reach its summary at http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_VPRDQGN

Kathleen Fasanella 02 Feb 06

It is about time that this crowd gets with the lean program! I can’t believe it’s taken this long for Kaizen to filter into this community. Kathy’s blog has danced around the concepts forever but haven’t explored the philosophy of lean which is primarily adopted in manufacturing. Btw, Lean (of which Kaizen is one facet) is the only thing that will keep manufacturing competitive in this country. It’s the reason why Toyota is flush with cash while expanding (paying the same wages as the big 3) as compared to downsized and debt ridden Ford. It’s the only way to go. You have to start lean and stay lean. Toward that end, I write about Kaizen as specific to apparel design companies.

Read all you can about it, there’s tons of blogs on it; we even do lean carnivals and online Project Kaizen carnivals. There’s tons to explore. Probably the best key words to use are “lean manufacturing”.

Andy 02 Feb 06

I definitely see the parallels between the Kaizen principles and 37signals’ practices, especially with Backpack development.

And it’s ‘laid’ not ‘layed’. Whether it’s by posters or commenters, I’ve seen the misspelling more than once on this blog.

Dave 03 Feb 06

I support the “Getting Real” practices. I attended “Building of Basecamp” last year and have integrated those ideas into my own. I have been practicing agile programming for several years and would never go back. However, I think that there is real danger in thinking that continuous, minor, improvement is the way to success. 37signals is successful because they changed the game with a disruptive technology (basecamp/rails). They didn’t settle for being a little better at doing the same thing as everyone else.

anil bawa 06 Feb 06

The notion of Kaizen is alluded to in the ‘Pragmatic Programmer’ book from Dave Thomas. As this book is closely linked to the Rails community, i’m surprised no one has mentioned it here.

As far as i’m concerned it’s Dave Thomas who’s formally applied this concept to software dev.

Some of the ‘getting real’ stuff is a re-branding of that one book, which is already a classic in my view.

anil bawa 06 Feb 06

The notion of Kaizen is alluded to in the ‘Pragmatic Programmer’ book from Dave Thomas. As this book is closely linked to the Rails community, i’m surprised no one has mentioned it here.

As far as i’m concerned it’s Dave Thomas who’s formally applied this concept to software dev.

Some of the ‘getting real’ stuff is a re-branding of that one book, which is already a classic in my view.

Semi Anonymous Coward 10 Feb 06

AGILE?

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