The 20 Keys ®

Unlock Your Potential

20 keys

Benchmark performance against world-class standards.

Fast Action

A fit-for-purpose technique to evaluate performance across 20 critical attributes – fast.

Fast Impact

Obtain feedback on prioritized actions to deliver immediate results.

Enduring Confidence

Engage your people to establish incremental improvement steps and ensure ongoing performance improvement.

A step-by-step method for achieving world-class performance.

What Is The 20 Keys

The 20 Keys is a performance improvement system like no other. It is template driven so it’s repeatable and objective. It engages workgroups and teams in measuring their current performance (baseline) and it provides a way for them to make decisions about what to work on and how best to achieve next-level results. Because of this engagement, the 20 Keys ensures that the work people are doing to improve their processes is relevant to them. Relevance and alignment are the two most important aspects of successful operational excellence systems.

How Does It Work

We start with something we want to improve. For example manufacturing, or business process or hospitals or maintenance – could be anything. Then we identify the 20 most influential “keys” to success. Now that we have the 20 keys listed we go a step further for each one and describe with a few sentences what the world looks like at 5 different levels of performance:

  1. Traditional: What we would expect to see somewhere that wasn’t too concerned about getting better.
  2. Learning: Some steps have been taken to improve.
  3. Leading: There real changes happening and the organization is aware. A performance system is starting to form.
  4. World-Class: The operation is paying careful attention to process performance and innovation is happening. The system works, but is not fail safe.
  5. Currently Invincible: The way the operation works is uncommonly good. It would be difficult for the competition to copy since the overall performance system is driving improvements big and small. The performance system adapts to a dynamic environment.

The workgroup is then asked to evaluate their current performance according to the description provided on the scale of 1 to 5 (no fractions). Once baselines are established, the workgroup participates in deciding how they are going to put some points on the board. For example if the 20 Keys initial score is 42 out of a possible 100, then getting 10 points over the next 6 to 12 months would be a good target. This approach gets an another basic human need which is control. People need some level of autonomy and decision-making in the things that affect them. When this happens, ownership rises exponentially.


Kaufman Global has developed 20 Keys templates for dozens of applications. It is one of the cornerstones of our system for Rapid Performance Evaluation and the 20 Keys are one of the primary elements in our Lean Daily Management System.

The 20 Keys was introduced by Iwao Kobayashi in his book: The 20 Keys of Workplace Improvement. Kobayashi’s “systems” view of operational performance was ahead of it’s time and even today we continue to fight against a symptom we call “toolitis” which in its simplest form is the overuse of the Kaizen Event.

Kaufman Global 20 Keys (partial list)

20 keys of lean manufacturing

  • Lean Manufacturing
  • Lean Office
  • Lean Hospital
  • Oilfield Services
  • Maintenance Effectiveness
  • Sales and Operations Planning
  • Leadership
  • Materials and Logistics

Want to learn more about the 20 Keys?

The 20 Keys can be found throughout Kaufman Global’s work and IP. Contact us to learn about how Kaufman Global clients have used the 20 Keys to unlock their potential on the journey to world-class performance.