20 Kaizen Keys: A Strategy for Integrating Kaizen in a Software Company

Kaizen is a popular term in Agile thinking. Many modern companies are trying to formulate a strategy to integrate Kaizen into the development of their projects.

A strategy for integrating Kaizen in a software company with the 20 Kaizen Keys

In the article, we present all 20 keys of Iwao Kobayashi. We present an integration strategy for each topic. As well as possible problems. Reference: “Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples“, https://pm.mba/posts/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-examples/

Support and training for employees

Training employees to perform at a higher level so that they can increase the value they add to the job.

A team can increase value when it is characterized as a team with well-informed, multi-skilled members who show initiative, who can identify problems, and are empowered to make decisions and implement improvements. To achieve this, training is conducted.
1) A system is created for staff motivation 2) A system is created for submitting suggestions from employees 3) Each team makes independent individual changes 4) The goals of the teams are in line with the project goals 5) They are conducted outside of work activities

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, programmers, QA team, HR, software testers, business analysts), Scrum team.

Possible problems

Employees may face a lack of tools and resources. They should be easily accessible to employees so they can perform at their best. Reference: “Kaizen strategy with 20 keys to Workplace Improvement by Iwao Kobayashi“, https://mpmu.org/kaizen-strategy-20-keys/


Focusing on teamwork to engage everyone in enthusiastic improvements.
Teams come together to solve problems, they think about specific problems related to quality, safety, “waste” and so on. This engages everyone in thinking about improvements. The principles of the improvements that the employees will implement independently are being developed. Training is being held on how the relevant improvements will be achieved.

Which of our teams will participate?

Technical team, programmers, QA team, software testers, business analysts, Scrum team

Possible problems

The reluctance of some of the employees to change the way of work. Additional time is required to discuss improvements and training. Reference: “20 Keys to Workplace Improvement (Manufacturing & Production) explained with examples and strategies“, https://phron.org/20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-manufacturing-production-explained-with-examples-and-strategies/

Clean and organize. Everywhere and all the time.

The resources we have and which are necessary to have order and cleanliness are determined, what is the best solution to eliminate the problem with the available resources, under what conditions the plan will be considered successful, and what the goals are. Corresponding actions are taken to ensure order and cleanliness. At this stage, everything that was considered in the previous stage should be implemented. Premises, workplaces, and equipment are cleaned. Storage space is created, and all causes of pollution are eliminated. The main goal is to make the workplace safe, clean, and efficient that all people can be proud of. This results in energized work teams, and improved motivation and production. The implementation of the plan should be checked and see if the original plan works, and if everything is clean and tidy. In addition, teams can identify problems from the current process and eliminate them in the future.

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, programmers, QA team, HR, software testers, business analysts), Scrum team. Reference: “Kaizen and the 20 keys to workplace improvement (of Iwao Kobayashi): Real Examples“, https://ossalumni.org/kaizen-and-the-20-keys-to-workplace-improvement-of-iwao-kobayashi-real-examples/

Possible problems

Employees who are not in the habit of cleaning and tidying because they like it clean. Possible problems with self-discipline and compliance by all people. Also, the arranged and sorted things sometimes require additional space, aids, etc

An engaging and participatory management style.

Work with all men to engage their minds and hearts, both in the work and in their hands. Managers at all levels of management focus on having an effective organizational structure with agreed goals at all levels: management, supervision, workers, etc. The company’s goals are formed and determined, the methods for achieving them are determined together, and the responsibility for the implementation of certain measures to achieve the goals is distributed. Everyone begins to perceive this goal as their own and does everything possible to achieve it.
Ideas and improvements are generated more easily when a company has a clear organizational structure. If the workplace lacks a clear organizational structure, the first task is to write down the current primary responsibilities of each employee. Reference: “What is Kaizen (continuous improvement)?”, https://bvop.org/learnagile/kaizen/

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, developers, QA team, HR, software testers, business analysts), Scrum team

Possible problems

Likely, middle managers do not always accurately understand the tasks of top management and pass incorrect information to lower levels.
Workers do not always achieve their goals 100%.

Reduced inventory and lead time.

Dealing with overproduction and reducing costs and deadlines.

Possibilities to reduce Work in Processes are being studied. Campaigns are underway to reduce overproduction. The elimination of duplicative processes is realized, the process and technologies are systematized, and the quality management system is implemented. In this way, a reduction in costs and deadlines is achieved. Reference: “The Kaizen 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement Explained with examples“, https://agileprogramming.org/kaizen-20-keys-to-workplace-explained-examples/

Which of our teams will participate?

Technical team, programmers, QA team, software testers, Scrum team

Possible problems

It takes time and effort for employees to change their way of thinking, and become more responsible because, with reduced inventory and project execution time, the quality of each stage of the process must be as high as possible.

Reduction of time for changing dies and machines for more flexible work (reduction of technological time for operations)

Employees have come to understand the relative ineffectiveness of non-value-adding activities. Training of employees on the rapid transition to processes that lead to a reduction in technological time for operations begins. The key points are defined. A transition to the processes that lead to a reduction in technological time for operations and that do not add value is implemented and implemented. Reference: “Kaizen methodology for workplace improvement“, https://bpedia.org/kaizen-methodology-to-workplace-improvement/

Which of our teams will participate?

Technical team, developers

Possible problems

Difficult adaptation to the new way of working.

Continuous improvement of the workplace

Creating improvement as a way of life, continuous work improvement, and a better workplace.

Focusing on process improvement through process analysis, streamlining, and facilitation. An improvement implementation approach is implemented, the implementation of systematic improvements in each process is started, and the staff is trained in the methods of implementing systematic improvements. Improvements are implemented systematically, processes are changed.

Which of our teams will participate?

Technical team, developers, QA team, software testers

Possible problems

Problems can arise with the preparation of documentation that is related to improvements, and problems with systematic improvements in any process. Reference: “Every Scrum Master must know the Kaizen principles“, https://wikipedia-lab.org/every-scrum-master-must-know-the-kaizen-principles/

Disciplined, rhythmic work

Synchronized systems where all parts work together. The staff determines their working and rest times. Daily morning meetings are held. Working time control methods are defined. Good faith performance of the work by the staff is achieved. The staff performing the work becomes energetic and highly motivated.

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, developers, QA team, HR, software testers) Employees who have difficulty accepting new rules can hinder others (motivated and disciplined) because the principle of Key 10 is a synchronized system where everyone works together.

Possible problems

An employee can be very valuable and competent, but if he is not used to discipline, management will have to find a way to solve this problem.


Constantly identifying and eliminating things that either do not add value or even destroy it.

Waste can reduce profitability, increase customer costs, reduce quality, and even employee satisfaction. For this reason, activities that do not add value must be identified and an attempt made to improve processes where waste occurs, or eventually to eliminate them. The main areas where waste can be identified are Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Over-processing, and Defects. 1) Processes and operations that do not add value are diagnosed 2) Reasons should be considered (5 Whys) 3) Causal diagrams are drawn up 4) Irrational cost distribution map is drawn up 5) A plan is developed for loss elimination. 6) Design and implementation of measures. As a result: the amount of work that contributes value is increased, all work creates added value.

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, developers, QA team, HR, software testers), Scrum team (leader)

Possible problems

It is possible that some employees will not take the initiative to share the problem moments because they are worried that it will affect the workload, etc. They must be convinced that identifying a problem is a good and useful thing. There may be difficulties in encouraging employees to suggest and implement improvements individually and in groups. Issues may arise that need to be resolved at a lower level (delegation).

Zero monitoring

Building systems that avoid the need for constant human monitoring. Instead, create a team that works to maintain and improve your technology.

Staff is led to understand that monitoring work is a Waste. A Scrum team is created, which, together with the developers, works on maintaining and improving technologies.

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, programmers, QA team, HR, software testers, business analysts), Scrum team.

Possible problems

With zero monitoring, cases of employee abuse may occur, which will lead to errors and defects.

Creating interconnected cells where flow and download are the order of the day.

We can interpret this to mean that your related processes must be in order and not obstructed. Throughout the day and at the end of the day, it’s the results that matter. The close functional relationship between the processes is established. Factors that prevent processes from being connected and in order are minimized. Availability of results throughout the day and at the end of the day is achieved. The organization was created and fully adapted to external changes.

Which of our teams will participate?

Tech team, developers, QA team, HR, software testers

Possible problems

Bottlenecks can occur, and paying close attention to where tasks get stuck is required to understand why this is the case.


Defect management, including defective parts and connections.

Kaizen Key 11 focuses on continuous quality improvement by creating a quality workplace. The goal is to achieve zero defects and nonconformances. An understanding of the importance of the relationship between the producer and the consumer has been achieved. The staff analyzes the quality of the manufactured products. A system of measures for the immediate elimination of defects has been developed and implemented. Countermeasures have been developed that completely prevent the possibility of a defect.

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, developers, QA team, HR, software testers, business analysts), Scrum team

Possible problems

It is very difficult to achieve complete prevention of defects, personnel must strictly follow PDCA principles.

Work in cross function

Employees work with colleagues from different departments and even change departments to gain experience in other areas as well.

Employees have reached an understanding of the need to expand their competence and improve their skills. Initiated cross-training within working groups. Measures are implemented to improve and expand the skills of each employee. Staff gain an understanding of the need for change in the organization in line with changes in the competitive environment. The company can quickly change following changes in the competitive environment through multi-skilled employees.

Which of our teams will participate?

All teams (technical team, programmers, QA team, HR, software testers) Scrum muster (Plans and guides Scrum (Kaizen) implementations within the organization)

Possible problems

Attempts to assign employees additional responsibility and challenges can burden employees and increase the level of stress in their workplace. Leaders mustn’t put too much pressure or create uncertainty when trying to empower their employees.


Maintenance of machines by people who work with them, not by outside specialists. This allows constant adjustment and minimal downtime.

The staff has been led to understand the need for a product and technology control system. A product and technology control system is being implemented. The staff explores all ways to improve the technological process and products. Implementation of the improvement program begins.
Technical team, developers

Self-maintenance requires additional time and effort, the way of working changes, and it takes time to adapt to the new one.


The timing of operations is planned to create a flow of high-quality and affordable products.

The compliance of the actual volumes of incoming and outgoing resources with the planned ones is analyzed. A schedule of well-functioning processes and technologies is drawn up, and clear boundaries for the beginning and the end are established. All stages are visualized. A management system has been established to ensure timely input of inputs and output of products.

Production, delivery, and quality control systems operate efficiently and are capable of handling urgent orders.

Difficulties and errors may occur because production planning to some extent depends on many external factors: the availability of raw materials and materials, as well as the plan for their future supply, orders from customers, and the level of consumer demand for finished products at the moment and in future periods.


Balancing financial issues with other areas that indirectly affect spending. With performance control, realistic and motivating performance levels are established for all processes and work, and performance is measured against targets to see how well the team is performing. The emphasis is on short interval management.

1) Performance monitoring reports are analyzed
2) Products are divided into groups (according to the degree of profitability), for each of which the optimal level of costs, and productivity is determined
3) The optimal time required for the production of the products is determined
4) A system is created to monitor compliance of the real production time with the optimal one
5) Performance monitoring provides accurate, relevant, and confidential information, thereby motivating employees.

Which of our teams will participate?

Technical Team, Programmers, QA Team, Software Testers, Business Analysts), Scrum Team

Full transparency of processes is required.


Use and training of more complex technologies and adaptation of teams to them. Each employee must be trained to effectively use the systems appropriate to their workplace, both in terms of day-to-day operations and as a means of continuous improvement.

To do this, teams are supported in terms of training, solving software and hardware technology problems, and obtaining continuous training on the capabilities provided by information systems. The technical team, developers, and QA team will be involved.

Partnerships between suppliers

Working with suppliers, making them part of the ever-improving chain, rather than fighting them.

Kaizen Key 12 focuses on the development of suppliers and contractors as value chain partners. It introduces a formal method for managing and developing suppliers by defining their development strategy, and service agreements and measuring their performance. Relations with suppliers, which were previously limited only to negotiating orders, price, etc., are being reviewed. Suppliers are now considered one of the main factors in the production process. Suppliers get help in case of problems. Joint training groups have been established with suppliers. Joint work with suppliers on the implementation of “20 keys” begins. Consistency and efficiency of supplier-related processes are achieved.

Possible problems

There may be cases when a supplier is not interested in changing the way of working, for him only standard negotiations and the agreed price and conditions are important. Source: Modern Kaizen principles and keys to workforce optimization, https://www.vbprojects.org/modern-kaizen-principles-and-keys-to-workforce-optimization/


Saving resources to avoid waste, both for the company and society and the environment.

Energy-saving technologies are identified and implemented. Informing and educating people at all levels about how they can help save energy and materials goes a long way in helping an organization become an economical, competitive player in the market.

1) The share of energy and material costs in the total production costs is determined
2) The campaign for conservation and sustainable use of energy and resources has been launched 3) The costs of energy and materials are being reduced
4) A savings program is introduced, including the use of new and cheaper technologies
5) Savings goals are achieved through the use and development of new technologies, Reference: 20 Agile Kaizen keys to workplace improvement, https://www.libraryofmu.org/20-agile-kaizen-keys-to-workplace-improvement/

Possible problems

A competent person (consultants) who can provide information on modern resource-saving technologies is required.

Technology and competitive engineering

Understanding and using methods such as Concurrent Engineering and Taguchi methods.

1) Monitoring of competitors’ technological progress begins
2) New technologies are adapted
3) The average level of technological development has been reached
4) New technologies are introduced
5) Progressive technologies are constantly being developed and implemented, Reference: What is Kaizen methodology, https://medfd.org/what-is-kaizen-methodology/

Involved Sketches: Tech Team, Developers, QA Team

Possible problems: Lack of appropriate tools, conditions, and resources when introducing new technologies.


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