Kaizen Event Process Quality: Towards a Phase-based Understanding of High-Quality Group Problem Solving

José Franken*, Desirée H. van Dun, Celeste P.M. Wilderom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
174 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – As a problem-solving tool, the kaizen event (KE) is underutilised in practice. Assuming this is due to a lack of group process quality during those events, we aimed to grasp what is needed during high-quality KE meetings. Guided by the phased approach for structured problem solving, we built and explored a measure for enriching future KE research.
Design/methodology/approach – Six phases were used to code all verbal contributions (N=5,442) in 21 diverse, videotaped KE meetings. Resembling state space grids, we visualised the course of each meeting with line graphs which were shown to ten individual kaizen experts as well as to the filmed kaizen groups.
Findings – From their reactions to the graphs we extracted high-quality KE process characteristics. At the end of each phase, that should be enacted sequentially, explicit group consensus appeared to be crucial. Some of the groups spent too little time on a group-shared understanding of the problem and its root causes. Surprisingly, the mixed-methods data suggested that small and infrequent deviations (‘jumps’) to another phase might be necessary for a high-quality process. According to the newly developed quantitative process measure, when groups often jump from one phase to a distant, previous, or next phase, this relates to low KE process quality.
Originality/value – A refined conceptual model and research agenda is offered for generating better solutions during KEs, and we urge examinations of the effects of well-crafted KE training.
Keywords – Kaizen event, structured problem solving, group process quality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-990
Number of pages29
JournalInternational journal of operations & production management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2021


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