Gemba Kaizen Book Summary By Masaaki Imai

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

Gemba Kaizen, written by Masaaki Imai and published in 1997, is a comprehensive guide to understanding the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen.

This revolutionary approach to working standards seeks to reduce waste and increase efficiency at little cost.

In this book, Imai reveals the essential facets of Kaizen that are needed in order to create lean business strategies.

He provides practical advice on how businesses can use Kaizen techniques to improve workflow, minimize costs and maximize production output.

He also explains how Kaizen can be integrated into everyday aspects of doing business so that it becomes more than just a mere concept but rather an integral part of operational practices.

Gemba Kaizen is an invaluable source of knowledge and guidance for those who want to learn more about turning their organizations into better-run units through Kaizen principles.

Gemba Kaizen Book

Book Name: Gemba Kaizen (A Common Sense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy)

Author(s): Masaaki Imai

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

Categories: Management & Leadership

Author Bio

When it comes to writing books about Kaizen, Masaaki Imai is a master.

He is the founder of the Kaizen Institute Consulting Group and has used his expertise in both writing and consulting to benefit people all over the world.

Through his work, he has helped many organizations improve their performance while reducing cost and increasing efficiency.

His in-depth knowledge of Kaizen and commitment to helping others are just two of the reasons he's so highly regarded in this field.

How To Become More Productive With Gemba Kaizen: A Guide For Managers

Gemba Kaizen

Gemba Kaizen is all about getting more result with less resources.

After the World War II, Japanese industrialists faced a devastating situation with losing half of their staff and destruction of factory buildings – but they found a way to still turn things around and get exceptional results even with minimal resources.

Now many Western companies have followed suit, seeing great success while adopting thrifty Japanese modes of production.

The secret lies in Gemba Kaizen – teaching you how to analyze your work protocols, cut out the unnecessary steps and involve your employees to work as a team towards reasonable goals.

You’ll find out tactics like reducing red tape for efficiency, tackling problems with just five simple questions and recognizing that it’s actually not always necessary for a manager to be in their office 24/7.

Implementing Gemba Kaizen will help you achieve more by using less.

Gemba Kaizen: Unlocking Productivity Through Elimination Of Muda

Gemba Kaizen is an effective and low-cost strategy aimed at increasing productivity which engages employees to identify and eliminate nonessential steps.

It takes the concept of muda, or what is actually wasteful effort, into account as it assesses working processes.

Through data analysis, Gemba Kaizen encourages companies to recognize and remove elements that eat up time and energy without contributing anything useful to the product.

This approach was exemplified in a US hospital where reducing the distance staff had to walk drastically improved efficiencies.

The all-important contribution of Gemba Kaizen is that it not only boosts productivity but also offers employees a chance to take part in forming strategies for improvement– pushing them towards playing a central role in daily work with plenty of scope for realizing greater outcomes.

The result? There’s no need for costly innovations or external consultants as every employee and manager gets involved in finding solutions that benefit the company as a whole.

Gemba Kaizen: Beyond Conveyor Belts And Car Manufacturing To Improving Productivity Everywhere

Gemba Kaizen is not just for industrial contexts.

It can be applied to a wide range of businesses and disciplines.

The idea behind it – to improve productivity by eliminating unnecessary steps – can be used in industries beyond manufacturing, such as insurance brokers, hospitals, and even administrations!

One example of the application of Gemba Kaizen in healthcare is clinical pathways.

These are plans that detail all the essential tasks involved in treating patients with specific diseases, helping to improve outcomes while cutting costs.

In administrations, “lean administration” using Gemba Kaizen ideas can help streamline administrative processes such as drawing up birth certificates.

And it does not stop there — some Romanian cities have successfully employed the Kaizen philosophy to keep their downtown areas clean and safe!

It is clear that Gemba Kaizen can do wonders for almost any business or sector; from our workplaces to our personal lives, this philosophy helps identify and eliminate waste for improved productivity.

The Power Of Standards And Self-Discipline: How Ant Colonies And Businesses Achieve Efficiency


Flexible standards are key to success in any company, and they can be just as effective at achieving order as ant colonies.

Employing set standards in workplaces helps everyone know what’s expected of them and eliminates mistakes that may arise due to individual workers’ quirks.

At the same time, it’s important for those standards to remain fluid and adaptable, improving over time so that the best solutions don’t get lost in the shuffle.

An example of this is when a worker on an assembly line moves a box of tools closer to her position.

By doing this, she reduces the amount of time spent turning around for supplies and increases her productivity (and therefore the company’s).

As soon as a viable solution like this is found, it should be turned into a standard procedure so that everyone else benefits from it too.

Doing so not only improves efficiency, but also makes the employees feel appreciated for their contributions and motivated to do better work.

Kaizen involves more than just standards though; self-discipline is essential as well.

Take for instance what happened when two companies with the same machinery joined forces – one Japanese, one European – all using different workplace standards and reaching drastically different levels of productivity.

The Japanese team managed 99.2% while the Europeans could only hit 98%.

Flexible standpoints like this clearly had an impact!

When we learn how to use them correctly, then there’s no limit to our growth potential.

The Five Ss: Self-Discipline For The Japanese Workplace

Self-discipline is an essential part of creating and sustaining efficiency in the workplace.

This is reflected in the Kaizen philosophy, as demonstrated by the five Ss: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke.

Through these practices, proper workplace organization can be achieved which promotes productivity and establishes a culture of self-discipline.

Seiri means sorting out unnecessary items in the Gemba while Seiton identifies where all necessary items should be placed for efficient access.

Following this, Seiso calls for sweeping the work floor to keep everything clean for maximum visibility and then Seiketsu ensures that these practices are systematized as daily habits.

Ultimately this leads to Shitsuke which refers to maintaining consistency with every other aspect to sustain efficiency within the workplace.

This is clearly reflected in Japanese companies which take the five Ss seriously; high standards are set for workers who must demonstrate self-discipline or else risk not being selected.

In Gemba Kaizen, it’s important to emphasize how key it is for leaders to implement self-disciplined behavior with their staff so as to ensure maximum efficiency across any given workplace setting.

The Benefits Of Visual Management: Using Pictures And Charts To Help Fulfill Workplace Goals

Visual management is an incredibly powerful tool for troubleshooting and motivating employees.

Through visualizing our working processes, we can quickly identify potential problems and make it easier to maintain standards.

For example, if the manager walks through the Gemba and notes that a worker is not in their designated area, they will know at a glance something is wrong.

It also highlights potential improvements – just by mapping out day’s goals, tasks already completed and work in progress on a whiteboard enables one to see when there is something left to improve.

We can even synchronize two production lines with the help of visual tools – graphically plotting the amount of finished pairs per each line shows if one is moving much faster than the other.

Finally, it provides employee motivation by displaying metrics like production output graph which makes every worker to feel accomplished after achieving daily targets set out previously becomes dearly visible.

To sum up, visuals processes help us save our time for matters that need to be addressed so that everyone gets to reap benefits of Gemba Kaizen right away!

The Necessity Of A Ceo Committing To Gemba Kaizen: Setting An Example For Employees


In order for Kaizen to be effective, a CEO must lead from the front.

They must be an example of self-discipline and commitment, and be willing to make it clear that everyone in the business needs to get on board with the goal of productivity and efficiency.

Art Byrne, who is a renowned expert in Lean Manufacturing, should serve as an example in this approach.

When Byrne works with businesses looking to improve their processes, he makes sure all members of management understand clearly that Kaizen needs to be implemented properly.

He’s also not afraid to stand his ground, even if some managers are not enthusiastic about the change: Byrne has no problem firing those resistant to change.

Similarly, other CEOs have found success in immersing themselves within Gemba (the workplace).

One notable example is a well-known CEO who cleaned office toilets every day — showing that they were willing to put in the extra work needed and setting an excellent model of discipline for their employees.

It’s also important for CEOs managing under Kaizen principles to already have one eye towards the future rather than focusing too heavily on failures from moments prior.

This requires devoting time towards developing an environment designed specifically for improvement.

Setting small achievable goals such as reducing task completion times by five percent and resetting them once the target is reached are paramount for moving forward towards improving efficiency and production levels overall.

Finally, it’s essential that executives genuinely adopt a Kaizen principle as part of their mindset — acting as passionate “lean zealots” while ensuring that they practice what they preach so that employees can trust what they are preaching rather than simply hearing lip service from leadership figures with nothing substantial behind it.

The Manager Must Stay Connected To The Gemba For Effective Practice Of Gemba Kaizen

Good managers should be in the Gemba to do their job right.

That’s where they can observe any problems that already exist and find solutions to help maintain or improve them.

Any standards that have been set need to be strictly followed if improvements are going to be successful.

As an example, think of a pizza manufacturer where the mozzarella keeps spoiling over the course of each afternoon.

The solution could simply be for all workers to wash their hands more frequently – this consequently becomes a standard.

But if it isn’t maintained, such as if the manager fails to check whether or not they do actually wash their hands, then it’s pointless and won’t benefit anybody.

Soichiro Honda,the founder of Honda, religiously stuck to his “Gemba Way” by never having an office and being constantly on the move in touch with his workers, making sure that there was no room for Muda (waste).

Therefore his workforce had faith in him because he led from the front and was actively involved with them which raised great motivation levels among his people.

Good managers need to work diligently in the Gemba so that maintenance and improvement occur simultaneously – only then will employees respect and believe in their leader – this is key for success when practicing Kaizen Management.

Wrap Up

Gemba Kaizen is all about creating continuous improvement and self-disciplined employees, with all levels of the workplace participating in the process.

With its simple and straightforward techniques, companies around the world have embraced it to streamline their operations and unlock their potential for success.

The key takeaway from Gemba Kaizen is to use the five-why technique to get to the root of any problem.

By asking “why” at least five times, you can get an insight into what could be causing a certain issue and take the necessary action to address it quickly.

Ultimately, Gemba Kaizen contains invaluable advice tailored for businesses that want to experience an increase in efficiency within their organization.

Make sure you give it a read and put these tips into practice!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.