Learning from less successful kaizen events: A case study

Jennifer A. Farris, Eileen M. Van Aken, Toni L. Doolen, June Worley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


This paper describes results from an ongoing research program focused on identifying determinants of Kaizen event effectiveness, both in terms of initial event outcomes and the sustainability of outcomes. Although anecdotal published accounts suggest that increasing numbers of companies are using Kaizen events, and that these projects can result in substantial improvement in key business metrics, there is a lack of systematic research on Kaizen events. A particular weakness of the current published accounts is the lack of attention to less successful events – only strongly successful applications of Kaizen events receive much coverage in the accounts; however, the organizational learning literature suggests that understanding less successful cases is a key component of organizational learning. We present a case study from a less successful Kaizen event to demonstrate how the case study event contributed to organizational learning. We also present a set of methods and measures that can be used by practicing engineering managers and engineering management researchers to evaluate and analyze Kaizen event performance. The implications of the case study event for the current body of knowledge on Kaizen events are also examined, and, finally, directions for future research are described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-20
Number of pages11
JournalEMJ - Engineering Management Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Lean manufacturing
  • Productivity
  • Quality management
  • Teams


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