Earlier this week Dan Markovitz penned a post comparing kaizen with kaikaku… steady continual improvement versus sudden, radical improvement. The post was descriptive, and some of the metaphors too much to resist.
Kaizen is boring and laborious. Kaikaku is sexy and exciting. Kaizen is your spouse of 15 years. Kaikaku is the smoking hot blonde on the barstool next to you.
Ok, I’m not convinced which is best. Though perhaps I better learn fast before my wife reads this.
Kaizen is investing the time and effort to establish service level agreements within your organization, so that people don’t feel compelled to respond to every email within one minute of its arrival. Kaikaku is establishing "email-free Fridays."
Almost exactly the point I tried to make last Wednesday in discussing Tim Ferris’ email recommendations in The Four Hour Workweek. Is checking email twice a day really forcing the batch processing of email, or is it forcing an analysis of why there’s so much email in the first place?
Kaizen is creating standard work for meetings — and following it. Kaikaku is installing $250,000 worth of videoconference hardware to enable people to attend meetings without the risk of being late.
Ugh… how many of us have done that. I have two conference rooms being retrofitted as I write this. Hmmm…
After several other examples, Dan concludes with,
It’s the difference between hitting a single and hitting a homer. They’ll both get you a run, but singles are a lot easier to come by than homers. And you’re less likely to strike out.
Which obviously implies that kaizen is preferred over kaikaku. But is it? Perhaps in general, but as another fellow blogger, Joe Ely, commented to Dan’s post,
Kaikaku is real though. It is the Prius.
Kaizen is the new model of the Camry.
Which finally begets my opinion: both are needed, and both are tools. Kaizen is vital to the long-term success of an organization, kaikaku is vital to creating a sudden radical change in the face of some sudden radical change in the competitive or technological landscape. Companies like Toyota that are skilled in both will truly succeed.