KZ Method and Choco-an |
Kaizen Consultant Yukio Kakiuchi web site

What’s the KZ method?

In the KZ method, K presents kaizen and Z presents zentai (entirely).

It is a method that, by involving all employees led by the president, they discuss lively in front of actual products in a work site to grasp the entire picture with the goal of implementing the most useful, optimal continuous improvements across the board.
Specifically, each participants holds 30 cards to tag items, which are not used within a month, and the items with problems in a work site. The tagged items are carried out to outside the work site. At that time, three places are prepared and categorized as follows:
(1) Unnecessary items, (2) Nonurgent items, (3) Necessary items


Everyone looks at the items categorized as unnecessary to discuss what they are, why they need to be removed and what to do next. This stimulates each person to provide various ideas. For example, it comes to their attention that there are fundamental design problems, problems on procurement, such as overbuying, problems of quality control and production management. By seeing these problems, everyone can work together to make improvements.

By removing unnecessary items and items that are not used, the work site becomes surprisingly spacious.

Space is needed to obtain more orders and develop the company.

Although they gave up on receiving more orders due to lack of space, by creating more space on their own, they can start without a risk of borrowing money from a bank.

Since non-urgent items are not used all the time, the employees go get these items without returning to an original location. In this way, the work site becomes spacious and makes it easy for the employees to work.

Necessary items are returned to an original location after organizing for better usability.

As a result, the company becomes able to change design and purchasing method, which were unmanageable previously, or improve the way of communication between the sales division and the production division, which were not possible with an effort of one division.

This creates an opportunity for the company to change dramatically. Also, by disposing unnecessary items, it creates more space to allow taking on new challenges.

The flow of generating motivation

The implementation of the KZ method helps a company to grasp company-wide problems, which were left unnoticed before. Because it also helps identify necessary members for kaizen or the implementation of the improvement, the employees can determine on the spot and have the motivation to put into action immediately.

Usually the employees divide jobs to operate the company. The design oversees design and the sales take orders while the engineering implements work process and the procurement purchase materials. The production manufactures products and the logistics deliver products and collect payment.

Although this is the most efficient method, as a result, it creates a group of professionals who know their jobs but do not know the entire company. The employees who only know partially cannot get together to discuss on the entire optimization no matter how many they are.

However, with the KZ method, while each employee talks about their involvement in products and what they want to do for the products in front of them, all the employees can understand the products entirely.

This helps start discussion specifically on the entire optimization.

In this way, they begin fine-tuning of knowledge, which is the Japanese is good at.

What is The Choco-an?

The Choco-an is a system that all employees participate in implementing kaizen or continuous improvements.
In this system, everyone carries out continuous improvements and give a report to receive compliments.
They can also imitate others when making improvements.
The improvement can be a maintenance work for repainting a disappearing white line too for example.
It is a simple system that the employees write down these ordinary, small kaizens in a small piece of paper to submit.
Who implement kaizen or continuous improvements in reality?


Aside from major companies with a special organization, such as production engineering, a witty employee of a small company might find a problem in one’s work to make improvements on one’s own. However, most companies cannot make improvements properly as a company in an organized manner.

On the other hand, while many companies have an improvement suggestion system, the system rarely functions in most companies in reality.

Although the system aims to make suggestions by considering how much profits can be made by realizing something that does not exist now, it is difficult to write and read about the improvement suggestion system, making it go into a dormant state in most cases.

However, people naturally start making improvements by self once they have a problem or feel inconvenient. Anyone has the ability.

Usually it is employees’ job to do what they are told to do at a company and they cannot act on their idea to change the way of working without a company’s permission.

The employees cannot make improvements in this way and even if they do so, no one notices unless they recognize it as an improvement.

To that end, The Choco-an requires employees to submit a piece of paper after implementing a kaizen once a month.

This means that the company asks all the employees to take initiative in making changes.

The requirement sounds harsh, but a very simple improvement is acceptable. They can imitate others, or just maintain previous improvements.

There are only three lines to write down simply, which are before and after improvements and the name. Just by doing this, they can receive a small compliment.

You might think that although all the employees make improvements, if they only improve the way of placing things closer, it does not seem to have an effect. In fact, this improves the business itself, such as inventory reduction, increased productively, improved quality and increased safety.

In addition, this compliments all the people involved and provides a next theme. Everyone finds one’s own space in the company and motivation in life, enriching their life.