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In search of “Muda” through the TKJ diagram

Manuel F. Suárez-Barraza (Universidad de las Americas Puebla (UDLAP), Puebla, México)
Su Mi Dahlgaard-Park (Institute of Service Management, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Francisco G. Rodríguez-González (Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico)
Carolina Durán-Arechiga (Universidad Autonoma de Sinaloa, Culiacan, Mexico)

International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences

ISSN: 1756-669X

Article publication date: 19 September 2016




Muda is a Japanese term literally meaning futility, uselessness, idleness, superfluity, waste, wastage or wastefulness. The term was introduced by the Japanese engineer Taiichi Ohno of Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1960s. Therefore, reducing and minimizing Muda is an effective way to increase the operational efficiency and productivity of an organization’s processes. In turn, the technique known as the affinity or TKJ diagram represents a practical way of sorting data or ideas into groups classified by common patterns; it can be regarded as one of the new seven tools of quality. The purpose of this paper is to discover Muda by applying the affinity or TKJ diagram in Mexican organizations.


An exploratory qualitative study was conducted. Using theoretical sampling, the authors identified and analyzed data from a kaizen training course. Each course workshop was organized by the Universidad de las Americas Puebla and consulting firm “Mi Empresa”, and given to employees of various organizations in various sectors over three years from January 2012 to January 2015.


The research provided the first evidence of Muda in Mexican organizations. The Muda of Ohno’s classification was confirmed, but new common patterns of Muda in twenty-first-century organizations also arose. Furthermore, the TKJ diagram proved to be an effective tool of quality to detect it.

Research limitations/implications

This paper has the same limitations as all other qualitative research, including analysis subjectivity and questionable generalization of findings. It is also important to highlight the seven KJ diagrams, a seemingly abundant figure. However, it is a small sample for the number of companies and processes to be found in Mexico.

Practical implications

This paper may prove to be valuable for practitioners and managers involved in the operations and continuous improvement fields. Getting to know Muda in organizations is of great importance for continuously improving organizational processes. This classification will allow greater insight and easier detection.


The study contributes to the limited existing literature on total quality management, lean thinking and kaizen, and subsequently disseminates this information to provide impetus, guidance and support toward improving the quality of organizational processes.



Suárez-Barraza, M.F., Dahlgaard-Park, S.M., Rodríguez-González, F.G. and Durán-Arechiga, C. (2016), "In search of “Muda” through the TKJ diagram", International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 377-394.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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