Kaizen for Law Enforcement (Part 2): Implementation, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures

December 14, 2021•  .   . Listen



In this second installment, the implementation of the Kaizen process into the law enforcement field will be considered, including some of the numerous tools and techniques relating to Kaizen.

What defines these different elements, how they can be applied, and how they can be related to law enforcement are the questions that will be addressed. All three aspects constitute important elements in the process of organizational adoption and implementation. One important point to bear in mind throughout, however, is that these various approaches and processes should remain flexible enough so that they can be applied to both the personal and the professional setting. Additionally, in the professional setting, Kaizen can be applicable to any public service organization (PSO) from firefighting to emergency medical response, and of course to law enforcement.




There are numerous reasons as to why an organization might adopt Kaizen processes, but here the focus will be upon the principal benefits of Kaizen as a result of its implementation. The benefits, both direct and indirect, can be quite consequential. It can foster an improved sense of teamwork which will have a positive impact on both performance and the achievement of the mission, goals, and values of the organization. Finally, Kaizen processes and methodologies can assist in reducing waste and thus aid in the effective allocation of limited organizational resources.

The Kaizen process can be effectively implemented on any scale, ranging from the individual level to teams, or indeed across the entire organization. This being said, the optimal application is geared toward small group settings. Much as with any other new or experimental approach, it is always best to begin your problem-solving with limited, small-scale application to test the effectiveness of the targeted results. In other words, be sure to first test any impending changes to organizational policy, procedure or ideology prior to full implementation. It is also essential to carefully plan out the implementation process. Remember the idiom: “Fail to plan = Plan to fail.” Carefully planned implementation is less likely to run up against strong change resistance that it might otherwise face. Another facet of successful programmatic implementation of new changes is to make certain that there is a reliable individual at the helm. When implementing the process, it is best to select a suitably trained and motivated individual to oversee the process. The person responsible for implementing Kaizen must transmit a sense of urgency, for if there is no urgency there may not be corresponding motivation or drive. This selected team member should be charged with both the authority and responsibility for the entire implementation process.

  • Start small
  • Plan carefully
  • Reliable leadership

While there has been significant controversy concerning the effectiveness of Kaizen implementation in the past, the results have resulted in a fairly even split between shining success and dismal failure. The way in which the process is implemented and the momentum sustained will play an important role in determining the outcome.


The benefits of successful implementation


Despite the potential controversy, there are multiple benefits that have been recognized by the proponents of Kaizen. These can be summarized as the 3 C’s.

  • Creation
  • Connection
  • Control

The creative element is related to the fact that the Kaizen process provides an opportunity for innovative aspects of problem-solving. This can be achieved when either the workforce or the assigned team are able to come up with adaptable strategies and practical solutions.

The connection aspect refers to the individual employees feeling a part of something much bigger than themselves. Kaizen fosters and enhances the collective organizational ethos and reduces the “WIIFM” (“What’s in it for me?”) effect. To paraphrase President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Ask not what your organization can do for you, ask what you can do for your organization.”

Personal control over the process provides a sense of ownership to those involved. This, of course, implies a lack of excessive managerial oversight and the tendency to micromanage. One aspect of this is the establishment of a dedicated “Kaizen area,” specifically destined to display the contributions of both individuals and the teams and where achievements and noteworthy contributions can be displayed. Recognition of contributions is a key element to successful implementation. Control will foster connectedness and result in loyalty to the organization.

Failure to properly layout the groundwork and clearly indicate the advantages both for the individual and the organization as a whole will be met with resistance, mistrust, and a corresponding lack of motivation. In other words, the initiative risks failing before it ever gets started. Carefully crafted approaches to implementation will result in significant benefits, such as establishing positive relations between management, staff, and line officers and providing a sense of participation, ownership in, and worth to the organization.


 6 Keys to Successful Implementation


There are six critical keys toward successful implementation:

  1. Kaizen should be a shared learning experience for personnel as this creates a culture of innovation and a fertile soil for planting the seeds of creative change and innovation.
  2. Clearly develop a process for submitting suggestions. The clearer and easier this is, the better it will function.
  3. Be sure to carefully establish the planned approach rather than applying a haphazard application of the process.
  4. Reward suggestions and be sure to celebrate successes. Officers and civilian staff should be encouraged to make suggestions without fear of reprisals or being reprimanded.
  5. Create a blameless environment. Avoid falling into the trap of the “blame game;” it is both counterintuitive and counterproductive. If there are errors or shortcomings, they are process errors, not people errors.
  6. Avoid the quest for perfection. After all, the concept of Kaizen infers that perfection does not exist. This is also one of the most frequent shortcomings of effective decision-making.


Implementation – the Process


There are key concerns involving the process of implementation:

  • If you want your organization to be successful in implementing the Kaizen process. then employee involvement is, of course, essential. This includes preparing the team.
  • The team should seek out and identify any and all existing processes. This does not need to occur immediately; this is an incremental, ongoing, and evolutionary process of seeking improvement.
  • When problems have been localized and identified, then a brainstorming session can help to identify plausible solutions.
  • The next stage consists in selectively eliminating various alternatives to arrive at the optimal solution and then implementing the best option.
  • The solution that must be chosen must be monitored and evaluated for effectiveness.
  • Finally, if the chosen solution is adequate, it should be standardized across the entire organization, agency, department, or unit. It is essential to tie inappropriate training and education with any newly devised solutions.[1]

Hopefully, it is readily apparent that this process is equally applicable to a multitude of scenarios including everything from human rights training to human resources, and from prisoner transport scenarios to the escalation of force regulations. The real key to successful implementation lies in not asking the line to do more in the same amount of time, rather to work smarter, not harder.


Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs)


Much the same as with any educational or training experience, there is always a learning curve involved in mastering new tools, techniques, and processes. Kaizen is no different.  Expect that it is a relatively painless and straightforward process. Much of Kaizen philosophy is based upon common sense, and therefore, so too are the processes involved.

When speaking about the various tools, the focus will be upon those that are most specifically applicable to a law enforcement setting, despite their less than obvious initial application. If nothing else, the mere consideration and adoption of such tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) will help to stimulate a more creative and innovative approach to problem-solving and decision-making, something we can all definitely appreciate and benefit from both personally and professionally.

One of the advantages of these various tools is their relative simplicity and logic. It is possible for an organization to adopt any of these in isolation or in combination according to needs. The limited number of tools we will consider here represents only a portion of the many available. The quality control processes are mainly geared toward manufacturing and corporate industrial processes and have less relevance to PSOs. The tools we will be considering here include:

  • Kaizen: The Deming Wheel, PDCA/PDSA, or Shewhart Cycle
  • The 5 Why? Technique
  • The 5S Organization Tool
  • Kaizen Muda, Mura, Muri

It is worth bearing in mind that these processes are far from being comprehensive and all-inclusive. Since Kaizen is a problem-solving and solution-finding process or methodology, one should therefore do everything in their power to complement it with additional knowledge and techniques at their disposal. There exist numerous other useful tools and techniques that will be shared; some of these additional tools will be outlined within a follow-up article on problem-solving and decision-making since these topics are so intricately linked.


Kaizen: The Deming Wheel, PDCA/PDSA, and the Shewhart Cycle


This particular set of tools is perhaps the most well-known since the origins of the Kaizen philosophy actually stem from this model (refer to Part 1 of this series for historical explanations). The Deming wheel or the Shewhart cycle are differentiated from the PDCA model by a slight change of perspective. The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle used in Japan was later modified to a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle.

Professor Deming invested a great deal of time and effort in support of this distinction. It is therefore worth briefly discussing the differences between the two models prior to examining this tool more closely.

Michigan Technological University provides the following definition of the PDCA cycle: “Plan-Do-Check-Act and is also known as the Deming wheel. PDCA is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products.”[2] The fact is that far more people are aware of the PDCA cycle than its counterpart. So, what about PDSA then?

PDSA focuses, as one might imagine, on the aspect of studying the implemented effects of the experiment or the change that has been introduced. (The relevance of the scientific method and hypothesis testing is outlined further within part 1 of the series). “Study,” therefore, refers to studying the effects of the experiment in fulfillment of the hypothesis. In simpler terms, one wants to see if any change met the expectations. The term “check” can be, and in fact often is, misconstrued to mean to check that everyone is following the new process rather than checking on the results of the experiment (as they should be doing).[3]  So to summarize, study is more a process of deeper introspective reflection. Let us now consider the model itself. You, as a law enforcement officer or leader, must think about how this particular tool might contribute to the problem-solving capabilities of your department or agency and what improvements might be visualized as a result. There is wide scope here for innovative thinking. Again, this applies to all branches and departments of law enforcement, from dispatch to patrol and from community policing to operations. The four-step process is relatively straightforward. “The PDCA cycle enables an organization to ensure that its processes are adequately resourced and managed and that opportunities for improvement are determined and acted on.”[4]


The “5 Why?” Technique


Another useful tool for problem-solving in the workplace is the 5-why technique. This is respected for its versatility and wide-ranging application. The purpose of the 5-why technique is to trace the root causes of a problem and avoid cosmetically treating what appears, only superficially, to be the actual cause. Such a “quick-fix” approach ignores the deeper underlying causes, and you can be sure that they will reappear with even worse consequences later on. This is a simple, yet effective, tool. It calls for introspection, careful analysis and searching out the hidden causes of problems. Let’s consider a simple example below:

Step Reason Why?
1 There have been a spate of violent robberies in district 4 Why does this occur?
2 Because there is a lack of lack of security measures Why is there a lack?
3 There are no police patrols in this particular area Why are there no patrols?
4 Because they have been assigned elsewhere Why have they not been assigned here?
5 Poor planning and allocation of effectives Why is there poor planning?
Root Cause A failure to consider criminal intelligence and match it to assigned units


Implementing the 5-why technique using a simple 5-step approach


There are five steps for properly implementing the 5-why technique:

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Ask yourself: why did this happen? Come up with all the causes you can think of.
  3. For each of the causes you just identified, ask “why did this happen?” again.
  4. Repeat until you’ve done steps 2 and 3 for five times. You should have identified the root cause by this stage.
  5. Find solutions and countermeasures to fix the root cause.


The 5S Organization Tool


The 5S tool is yet another commonly utilized process in the Kaizen arsenal. The “5s Technique” is all about order and cleanliness. In other words, there is a place for everything and everything has its place. The 5S process is focused on visual order, clear organization, cleanliness, and process standardization.[5] However, 5s also refers to the reduction and elimination of waste. This aspect of waste reduction in efficient management will be discussed a bit later, but please bear in mind that when one speaks about waste, they are speaking about removing non-value-adding activities (NVAs) and not taking out the trash.

Bhoi and Patel define the 5S tool application as per the illustration and explanation below.

  • Sort: – Perform ― “Sort Through and Sort Out,” – red tag all unneeded items and move them out to an established area for later disposition within a predetermined time. ― “If in doubt, move it out!”
  • Set in Order (Stabilize): – Identify the ideal location for remaining items and label them properly. ― “A place for everything & everything in its place.”
  • Shine (Systematic Cleaning): – Clean everything, inside and out. Use visual sweeps to ensure everything is where it should be, and that junk is not accumulating.
  • Standardize: – Create the rules for maintaining and controlling the first 3 S ‘s. Use visual controls.
  • Sustain: – Ensure adherence to the 5S standards through communication, training, self-discipline, and rewards.[6]


Kaizen and Poke-Yoke


Poka-Yoke is any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps to avoid mistakes. Built in error proofing.[7]

The Poke-Yoke technique refers to “fool proofing” objects through the design process, in order to avoid errors at the outset. One clear example of this is the use of bright or neon colored tasers and placing them on the offside of the officer to avoid fatal errors. Despite these interventions, accidents still unfortunately occur.[8]  Please refer to the figure below.[9]

Kaizen Muda, Mura, Muri


Muda, Mura, Muri are all different types of waste in the workplace. Reduction of this type of waste improves efficiency and enhances the overall performance of the agency, department, and organization. Let us consider each of these in turn and how to reduce or eliminate them entirely. Please bear in mind that these concepts were developed with manufacturing, corporate and industrial (MCI) interests in mind, so a bit of flexible thinking is required to tailor them for use in public service organizations. Before analyzing these tools then please bear two important concepts in mind:

  • Reduction or elimination of non-value adding activities and processes
  • What does not add value is considered as waste

Muda: This tool is presented first, as it is more complex than its other two counterparts.  Muda consists of 7 forms of waste and has more to do with the 7 deadly sins than with Snow White and the 7 dwarves. An easy way to remember these different types of waste is by adopting the Acronym “TIM WOOD:”

T – Transport

I – Inventories

M – Motion

W – Waiting

O – Over production

O – Over Processing

D – Defects

Transportation/conveyance is largely a process-oriented flaw. It is another of the 7 deadly sins of Muda. This relates to the previous category, that of movement. This refers to moving materials inefficiently. Under the heading of conveyance, this would include transporting materials in several runs, when they could be more effectively grouped together for efficiency. This is also applicable at the individual level, for instance an individual working in the police garage going back and forth to retrieve tools rather than having the necessary tools close by at their disposal. Another related example lies in the failure to return items to their selected locations, which leads to lost time spent in trying to relocate them. Remember Multi-tasking is the enemy of efficiency! The takeaway to bear in mind is to consider your actions considering this transportation principle and ask yourself if each trip is necessary. This aspect of waste is very closely related to the concept of Muda, that we spoke of earlier.

Inventory/stocks (in excess): when placing this concept within a policing context, this can refer to an abundance of unused equipment such as tactical gear and vehicles or materials that are outmoded or worn out and kept merely since “they might one day be useful.”  Examples include old or broken communications devices, first aid kits containing medications that have passed their expiration date, and riot gear that is not being used. Clutter can reduce efficiency and can be managed using the 5S technique that was introduced previously. All excess stocks should be either placed in a dedicated storage facility, or disposed of, if broken, no longer useful, or has expired.

Motion: is related to unnecessary motion and the inefficient movement of people and materials. Adding additional and unnecessary steps to a procedure, such as when practicing room clearance, reduces both response time and efficiency. Another pertinent example is to have unit members move to another building for a meeting that could just as easily be held in their own premises. Under this category we can also include the concept of “mental movement,” that is, task switching, during a work period. This can be the result of an imbalanced workload and asking employees to do more in the same given timeframe. If an individual does not focus on a single task and complete it prior to moving on to the next, this will lead to confusion, a lack of focus, and a loss of effective application. Good organization is the key to reducing unnecessary motion, and hence waste. An example of effective reduction of motion would be to post a list of frequently used numbers on a wall next to your desk, rather than having to continually look them up. Another example of this is having individual members report for an organized event, when a single vehicle could be assigned for collective transport, thus assuring that everyone is together and on time for a selected event such as a training session or moving to the firing range for drills. Finally, another example is the lack of proximity of needed machines or equipment.

Waiting/Procrastination/Unnecessary Processing – These are violations of the time management work ethic. The age-old axiom that “time is money” certainly applies to law enforcement. Wasting time reduces unit effectiveness and impairs response time. These include things like holding up meetings for latecomers. This is not only a waste of time, but also displays a lack of courtesy and respect for those who do arrive on time. A clear example of this is during roll call or meetings. Another enormous waste of time is checking emails. Selective attention to the most important emails is essential and should be done first thing in the morning if possible. Emails should be categorized and classified according to their priority and importance.

Overproduction: the physical aspect is quite self-explanatory and easy to visualize; however, this perspective also encompasses overproduction in the context of duplication of efforts. Examples would include two departments or agencies carrying out the same function within the same geographical scope. This would be a waste of both manpower and resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.

Overprocessing/Variations: /Redundancy/Rework: A clear example of this would be drawing up new forms for reporting  an incident when a standard template would suffice just as easily. Controlling this aspect will help to reduce the cumbersome demands of bureaucracy and enhance efficiency. There exist certain assigned tasks that have lost their meaning, or which are no longer effective procedures. These activities should be eliminated. Performing such useless or irrelevant tasks merely because they are part of an assigned program is a common source of waste within departments. Ticking the box exercises are both counterproductive and counterintuitive. Another pertinent example would be inviting more people than necessary, to a meeting or alternatively individuals who are not concerned by the topic being discussed. Overprocessing is most often the result of poor training or inappropriately defined operating procedures.

Defects/Repairs/Rejects: This can result in long delays because of the job not being performed properly in the first instance. Defects and repairs can impede efficiency and negatively impact response times. Improper vehicle maintenance or helicopter checks improperly performed can not only have negative consequences, but it can also result in death or injury. This concept can be further expanded to include training and exercises that, if improperly developed and delivered, will result in inferior operational performance and can have dire consequences by exposing first responders to unnecessary danger through mediocre training. A failure to adequately provide public service related best practices will tarnish the reputation of the organization and reduce public trust.

Mura: is the second concept relating to organizational NVA and can be roughly translated from the Japanese to mean imbalance, unevenness, irregularity, or a lack of balance or uniformity. However, here it refers to a clear inconsistency in services or products. This can relate to imbalance in the use of force continuum or poor, irregular, and inadequate training. One clear application of this is the exercise of judgment in operational unit response. This was clearly evident in the Paris Bataclan terrorist incident, where units were overallocated in response to the initial incident resulting in a gap in reserve police resources as other incidents cropped up around the French capital. It is a key concept closely related to Toyota’s Total Production system, or TPS. The ideal response to Mura is referred to as “Just-in-Time” production or JIT. In law enforcement terms, one might verbalize this as the right units doing the right job at the right time. It is a perspective relating to harmonious balance of limited resources.

Mura is predominantly a manufacturing concept and relates to maintaining low inventories through the adoption of a first-in, first-out approach (FIFO). Organizational waste eventually leads to and results in Mura waste and is related to a lack of clear standard operating procedures (SOPs) within an organization. Another example here would be inconsistent and irregular training of traffic patrols, and this would, in turn, result in less-than-optimal responses to incidents.

Muri is the third Japanese concept relating to organizational waste. Muri results in response to overly complex, or labor intense activities which result in worker overload and burnout. This calls to mind the guiding principle of “work smarter, not harder.” Another cause of Muri is the result of improper training. Muri can lead directly to increased employee absenteeism, increased inertia, a lack of motivation, and related equipment failure and breakdowns. Muri can be avoided through standardizing work processes.




The implementation process and several useful tools that can assist Law enforcement in sustaining a more error-free and efficient public service have been examined. If law enforcement is to maintain its reputation embodied by the motto “(T)o serve and protect,” then they must put all possible advantages on their side. The adoption of Kaizen can have practical application in the workplace, and this at all levels and in all fields of the organization. In complex and challenging areas where problems often arise, such as the evidence room and forensics, Kaizen tools are particularly applicable. The great thing about Kaizen is that one can adopt all of it, part of it or none of it. You can also modify it to use a fit-for-purpose. Since Kaizen is more a philosophy than a pure methodology, it is extremely flexible, and while there are specific guidelines, there are no steadfast rules for its use and implementation.

Due to time and space constraints, two important aspects relating to police management, in general, and Kaizen implementation, in particular, have not yet been covered. The goal is to dedicate future articles specifically to two important topics – change resistance and the “Gemba Walk.”



Alosani, M. S. & Yusoff, R. Z., 2018. Investigating the Relationship Between Kaizen and Organizational Performance: A Conceptual Framework for Police Agencies. European Journal of Business and Management, 10(24), pp. 12-16.

Bhoi, J. A., Desai, D. A. & Patel, R. M., 2014. The Concept & Methodology of Kaizen. International Journal of Engineering, Development, and Research, 2(1), pp. 812-820.

Brunet, A. P. & New, S., 2003. Kaizen in Japan: An empirical Study. International Journal of Operations & Project Management, 23(12), pp. 1426-1446.

Holland, K., 2014. Kaizen-news.com. [Online]
Available at: https://www.kaizen-news.com/kaikaku/
[Accessed 5 july 2021].

Kaizen Institute India (KII), 2015. What is the difference between Kaizen, Lean & Six Sigma?. [Online]
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[Accessed 17 July 2021].

Khan, I. A., 2011. KAIZEN : The Japanese Strategy for Continuous Improvement. International Journal of Business & Management Research, 1(3), pp. 177-184.

latestquality.com, 2021. How to Implement Kaizen in an Organization. [Online]
Available at: https://www.latestquality.com/implement-kaizen-in-an-organization/
[Accessed 6 July 2021].

Lucid Content Team, 2018. What is Kaizen Methodology? Lucidchart Blog. [Online]
Available at: https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/kaizen-methodology
[Accessed 29 June 2021].

Rodriguez, D., 2020. Understanding Kaizen Methodology – Principles, Benefits & Implementation. [Online]
Available at: https://www.invensislearning.com/blog/kaizen-methodology/
[Accessed 27 June 2021].

The content Team, 2018. Gaining the Full Benefits of continuous Improvement. [Online]
Available at: https://sixsigmastats.com/7-wastes-muda-nva/
[Accessed 19 July 2021].


[1] Modified from: latestquality.com, 2021. How to Implement Kaizen in an Organization. [Online]
Available at: https://www.latestquality.com/implement-kaizen-in-an-organization/
[Accessed 6 July 2021].

[2] https://blogs.mtu.edu/improvement/2013/10/11/pdca-vs-pdsa/

[3] Ibid See also: Martin, K., 2012. Guest Post – Words Matter: Why I Prefer PDSA over PDCA. [Online]
Available at: leanblog.org/2013/01/guest-post-words-matter-why-i-prefer-pdsa-over-pdca
[Accessed 12 November 2021].

[4] ASQ/ANSI/ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems-Requirements standard, for more in-depth analysis see: https://www.bulsuk.com/2011/05/pdca-plan-do-check-act-extended-diagram.html

[5] Slack, N., Chambers, S. & Johnston, R., 2007. Operations Management. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall; 5th edition. P, 470.

[6] Bhoi, J. A., Desai, D. A. & Patel, R. M., 2014. The Concept & Methodology of Kaizen. International Journal of Engineering, Development, and Research, 2(1), p. 815. See also: https://www.managementstudyguide.com/what-is-kaizen.htm

[7] Source: https://kanbanize.com/lean-management/improvement/what-is-poka-yoke

[8] For recent examples see: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56724798 and https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-13/how-officer-confuse-gun-with-taser

[9] Supra 7.

About the Author: Dr. James P. Welch holds a Ph.D. in international criminal law from Leiden University. Dr. James has worked in police, military, and intelligence services for over 50 years. He is a sworn translator/interpreter for the Belgian Federal Police and an Essential Functions Officer (EFO) for the U.S. Department of Defense. Dr,. Welch is currently an adjunct professor with Rabdan Academy in the UAE.


Related Reading: Kaizen For Law Enforcement (Part 1)
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