11.30.2007

What is the Japanese translation of kaizen?

In my last post, I ranted a bit about how we focus a bit to much on jargon and tools without really understanding the literal meaning of the Japanese words we throw around. In that post was a graphic of the kanri writing which represents the word kaizen. I pulled these from wikipedia for purposes of illustration.

I posted a question on the NWLEAN board requesting literal translations of many lean words such as kaizen, mura, muri, muda, etc. So far, a few people have posted the commonly understood english meanings. I'm really looking for the japanese meanings. For example, I plugged these characters individually into alta vista's babel fish translator and received the following words:
"Reforming" and "virtue".
It is easy then, to imply that in english, this means "change for the good" and then is not a leap to get to continuous improvement.
Is there more to this? Is there a different paradigm associated with a system built on "reforming virtue" in Japan that is different than America's version of "good change"? What do you think? Please post your comments.

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3 Comments:

At April 18, 2009 at 11:40 AM , Anonymous Kirsten Just said...

I heard a great definition from a friend who is passionately studying Japanese. I did not tell him the context behind my question.
He said that Kaizen means: "to refine to perfection."
This leads us to the definition of "refinement" which involves an ongoing process, not an instant good change.
This kick-ass definition adds the element of time as a component of success.
--from a Continuous Improvement Advocate at Renewal by Andersen (replacement windows)

ps. I have struggled with the acceptance of the jargon surrounding the word kaizen also!

 
At May 23, 2011 at 4:01 AM , Anonymous used construction equipment said...

Kaizen (Japanese for "improvement" or "change for the better") refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, supporting business processes

 
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