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Kaizen: An Ancient Operational Innovation Strategy for Organizations Of The XXI Century

Special issue call for papers from The TQM Journal

Guest Editors

Manuel F. Suárez-Barraza, Ph.D.
Director of International Business Management Department of Universidad de las Americas Puebla (UDLAP), México and Visiting Professor at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain.

José Ángel Miguel-Dávila, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Management and Economy, Universidad de León, Spain.

Carmen Jaca-García, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Management, Tecnun, University of Navarra, San Sebastian, Spain

Francisco G. Rodriguez-González, Ph.D. Candidate
Associate Researcher, EGADE Business School, Tecnologico de Monterrey (Mexico).

Submission Deadline for Papers: 31st December 2017


This Special Issue will address the importance of the improvement concept in terms of the Japanese philosophy known as Kaizen (continuous improvement) (Imai, 1986). Kaizen originated in manufacturing processes (Imai, 1986, Fujimoto, 1999). Some authors attribute its beginning to the work of William Deming and Joseph Jurán (Mizuno, 1988), whereas others relate it to the improvement of processes in the Toyota Motor Corporation during the Fifties and Sixties (Nemoto, 1987; Bessant and Caffyn, 1997). Crucial elements in both cases are the importance of self-development, discipline and pride in one's work within the Japanese culture (Sakaiya, 1995; Suárez-Barraza, et al., 2011). The term Kaizen is the combination of two Japanese ideograms (Kanjis), Kai () which means change, and Zen (善), which means to improve or to be reborn (Newitt, 1996).  The Japanese culture, oriented towards a philosophy of disciplined and constant self-improvement, which probably had its origin in the Bushido code of  the “samurai” during medieval Japan (Sakaiya, 1995), easily assimilated the lessons of statistical process control, thus giving rise to the Japanese philosophy called Kaizen (Suárez-Barraza et al., 2011).

This management approach is recognized as an improvement strategy capable of ensuring excellence and operational innovation (Brunet and New, 2003). The Kaizen philosophy approach has been present in the management arena for several years, even in the field of organizations at the practical level such as philosophy, technique and event (Montabon, 2005; Suárez-Barraza et al., 2011; Cheser, 1998; Van Aken, Farris et al., 2010). Therefore, there is a clear theoretical need to cover this conceptual gap through this Special Issue.

Within this context, it is necessary to deepen the knowledge of what is happening in organizations with the practice of Kaizen. The purpose of this special issue has a twofold justification. First, it is to clarify the term Kaizen compared to other managerial practices like Total Quality Management, Small Circle Activities, Lean Thinking and Six Sigma. Second, it is to understand in depth this philosophy, its particular characteristics, its implementation and even the sustainability of this practice over time.

Proposed Special Issue Outcome

We are seeking contributions reflecting different perspectives and methodological approaches that explore Kaizen applications as an operational innovation strategy for organizations in the context of the XXI Century. All sectors are welcome, from manufacturing to services, either public or private. Empirical contributions are encouraged, as well as theoretical and conceptual papers which address the Kaizen philosophy and its application as an operational innovation strategy in the current global environment of the XXI Century.

Special Topics that would be of interest to the editors of the special issue include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • History roots of Kaizen in the Japanese culture and management arena
  • The concept of the Kaizen philosophy. Is it possible to define?
  • Kaizen: specific characteristics and critical success factors
  • Case studies and action research on Kaizen implementations in manufacturing and service organizations
  • How Kaizen is applied in Japan and in western countries?
  • How Kaizen is applied in Latin American countries?
  • Kaizen implementation: drivers and barriers
  • Differences between techniques and tools of Kaizen applications (Kaizen events, Kaizen teams, continuous process improvement, Quality Control Story, seven tools of Quality Control)

We welcome original, empirical, and review papers, case studies, and theoretical frameworks or models related to Continuous Improvement (Kaizen) methodologies. High quality submission may come from academics, researchers, practitioners, and even management consultants who are international opinion leaders. The sectors that can be covered in the scope of the journal would include manufacturing, service and public service companies. Regarding the service sector, research papers about health, education, restaurants, tourism, hotels, transportation and federal and local governments can be included. For any queries, contact either of the following editors: Manuel F. Suárez-Barraza (Manuel: manuel.suarez@udlap.mx) or Francisco G. Rodríguez-Gonzalez (Francisco: francisco@miempresa.com).

Submission Deadline for Papers: 31st December 2017


Bessant, J. and Caffyn, S. (1997). "High Innovation through continuous improvement." International Journal Technology Management, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 7-28.
Brunet, A.P. and New, S. (2003), “Kaizen in Japan: an empirical study”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 23 No. 12, pp. 1426-46.
Cheser, R. (1998), “The effect of Japanese Kaizen on employee motivation in US manufacturing”, The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 197-217.
Imai, M. (1986), Kaizen – The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success, Random House, New York, NY.
Mizuno, S. (1988). Company Wide Quality Control. Tokyo Japan, Asian Productivity Organization.
Montabon, F. (2005), “Using Kaizen events for back office processes: recruitment of frontline
supervisor co-ops”, Total Quality Management and Business Excellence, Vol. 16 No. 10,
pp. 1139-47.
Nemoto, Masao. (1987). “Total Quality Control in Toyota and Toyoda Gosei”. Seminario en CHU-SAN-REN. Nagoya Japón.
Newitt, D.J. (1996), “Beyond BPR & TQM – managing through processes: is Kaizen enough?”, Proceedings Industrial Engineering, Institution of Electric Engineers, London, pp. 1-38.
Sakaiya, T. (1995), What is Japan?, Editorial Andrés Bello.
Suárez-Barraza, M.F., Ramis-Pujol, J. and Kerbache, L. (2011), Thoughts on kaizen and its
Evolution. Three different perspectives and guiding principles, International Journal and Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 2, No.4, pp. 288-308.
Van Aken, E, Farris, J; Glover, W; and Ferres, C, (2010), A framework for designing, managing, and improving Kaizen event programs, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 59 No. 7, pp. 641-667.