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Japanese Terms in Lean – Cheat Sheet

“Lean” as a way to think and design processes comes with its own set of Japanese vocabulary. Here’s a little Cheat Sheet with the most commonly used terms and their translations.

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Content of 1-pager:

Japanese Terms in Lean

Lean Manifacturing aka “The Toyota Production System” is a Japanese invention and enriches our vocabulary

  • Muda – Wasteful Activity
  • Mura – Imbalance
  • Muri – Overburden
  • Kaizen – Incremental Change
    Kanban strives for this kind of small, continuous improvement.
  • Kaikaku – Radical Change
    Introducing Scrum is one example for a sudden, disruptive improvement initiative.
  • Genba – Actual Place
    Best known in the phrase “Gemba Walk”, which means to go where the work is done and observe. This is not just a management activity.
  • Genchi Genbutsu – Actual Place, Actual ThingOften translated as “go and see”. It means to gather facts and consensus for goal achievement at best speed (not necessarily the fastest).
  • Poka Yoke – Mistakeproof
    Japanese Variant of KISS
  • Hansei – Self Reflection
    Contains 2 parts: Recognizing the mistake yourself & pledge improvement


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