Characteristics of established kaizen event programs: An empirical study

Wiljeana J. Glover, Wen Hsing Liu, Jennifer A. Farris, Eileen M. van Aken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Purpose: Despite the increased adoption and reported benefits of kaizen event (KE) programs, there is a lack of empirical research documenting their design, implementation and outcomes, as well as what designs may be more vs less effective. This paper aims to present an empirical study describing the characteristics, including outcomes achieved, program attributes, and implementation problems, of 16 established KE programs. Although this study is primarily exploratory and descriptive, the goal is to identify areas for future research, including attributes that appear to support or detract from program success, and the outcomes and implementation problems experienced. Design/methodology/approach: Using semi-structured interviews, qualitative data were collected to characterize established KE programs in 16 manufacturing, service, and government organizations. The data were examined using content analysis to identify the most frequent codes for each characteristic, which were then compared to KE program characteristics synthesized from a systematic review of published KE sources. Based on this, a set of propositions were identified to guide future research on KE programs. Findings: The majority of the 16 organizations reported successful programs, although there was noted variation in organization success. The organizations also neglected to measure many aspects of program success which they considered to be highly important, in particular, human resource outcomes. In addition, the organizations appeared to struggle with sustainability and believe that sustainability problems could threaten long-term KE program viability. Other potentially influential factors include the types of processes targeted, event types, catalysts for events, and KE resources. The findings were used to develop propositions for future research in these and other specific areas. Practical implications: The study provides a better understanding of the characteristics of established KE programs, as well as common areas in need of improvement even in these programs, and can be used by practitioners in establishing or improving their KE programs. Originality/value: By documenting established KE programs across organizations and comparing actual practices to published sources, this study contributes to the development of KE theory and also provides direction for future empirical research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166-1201
Number of pages36
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013


  • Kaizen events
  • Lean
  • Process improvement
  • Qualitative methods


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