To journalists: if you write about Lean, check your facts!

An otherwise informative newspaper story about a company’s Lean approach in a local newspaper contains the following paragraph:

“The heart of lean is kaizen, a Japanese term. ‘Kai’ means to take apart, and ‘zen’ a striving toward perfection. Kaizen is a process in which a team of employees is brought together to focus on a problem that needs solving or a process that needs improving. Improvement is continual, and that’s the striving for perfection. Edward Deming, a statistician from the U.S., brought the idea to Japan after WW II when he struggled to get American manufacturers to listen to his ideas. Lean and kaizen principles were widely adopted by Japanese manufacturers and helped Japan rebuild after the war.”

This is a remarkable paragraph. Other than saying that Kaizen is Japanese, every statement in it is inaccurate. Let us review them one by one:

  1. “The heart of lean is kaizen,..” Well, not really. It’s only part of it. You can’t implement Lean with just Kaizen, and you can practice Kaizen without being Lean.
  2. “‘Kai’ means to take apart,…” Not in my copy of Nelson’s Japanese dictionary! ‘Kai’ means change, renew, mend, not “take apart.”
  3. “…and ‘zen’ a striving toward perfection.” In the same dictionary, Zen means good, goodness, right, virtue, not “striving” for anything, let alone “perfection.”
  4. “Kaizen is a process in which a team of employees is brought together to focus on a problem…” What about Kaizens done by individuals through a suggestion system?
  5. “Edward Deming, a statistician from the U.S., brought the idea to Japan after WW II…” It’s W. Edwards Deming, and what he brought to Japan was not Kaizen but statistical quality control.
  6. “Lean and kaizen principles were widely adopted by Japanese manufacturers and helped Japan rebuild after the war.” Assumes Lean and Kaizen existed before Japan’s post-war reconstruction.

The rest of the article is actually interesting, informative, and credible about the specifics of the case. It didn’t need a paragraph of background. If, as a journalist, you write about a case of Lean implementation, don’t write such a paragraph without checking  the facts.

2 comments on “To journalists: if you write about Lean, check your facts!

  1. Boy, you’re tough Michel!!! …… 🙂

    It’s not a theology, Orthodoxy to the doctrine is like pursuing the perfect by sacrificing the good.

    Chris

  2. Am I? I am not naming anyone, and I am sincerely praising the rest of the article. Again, journalists are not required to provide deep background. All I am asking is for them to be careful if they do.

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