‘The heart of Lean is the Kaizen Process.’ Kaizen means ’change for the better’ and is loosely translated at Continuous Improvement. This is actually a misleading translation, because Kaizen does not imply an iterative repeated process.
The core Kaizen event is nothing else than a Scrum Retrospective. In fact, the descriptions of how to run the meetings are so similar, I suspect they have a common source.
Two differences become quickly apparent:
- While Lean talks ‘bottom up’, it assumes top-down management. This book describes (sometimes in excruciating detail) how to organize a Kaizen event, including one month of preparation, a few days for the event itself, and then a month of post processing. My favorite suggestion was creating posters ‘Coming to a Workplace Near You: IMPROVEMENT!’ I can see the staff rolling their eyes.
- Each Scrum Team holds a Kaizen event once per sprint. You might even argue that the daily scrum is a Kaizen event. So 12 to 24 times per year is typical.
The more subtle difference is that management organizes & choreographs the process. The advantage of the Lean approach is that management is more committed making the suggestions happen. I have experienced that this can be a problem for Scrum teams...
Under Scrum, each team sends a filtered, prioritized list of improvements, usually one or two top issues to management after every sprint. When management supports the Scrum teams, wonders can happen. Would you like to be one of the companies which discovered ‘we got more lean doing 6 months of Scrum than doing 3 years of lean with traditional management’?