Continuous Improvement from Where It Counts

By: Shingo Institute Staff

“What’s the difference between the Shingo Prize® and other similar awards?” It’s one of the questions most frequently asked of the Shingo Institute. The short answer is that it isn’t just a framework for management. The Shingo focus is on organizational culture conducive to having improvements come directly from the mind of every associate at the organization to get measurable, world-class results.


The Shingo Institute began its mission of recognition, education and research 28 years ago. It was the result of a collaboration between its namesake, Shigeo Shingo, and Utah State University. Long before terms like TQM, JIT and “lean” became popular in the western world, Dr. Shingo wrote about ensuring quality at the source, flowing value to the customer, working with zero inventory, and understanding the true working situation by being at the work site, or “going to gemba.” He worked extensively with Toyota executives to make these concepts part of the company, and the efficacy each concept was proven during the company’s many years of industry domination.

Ever the evangelist of process improvement, Dr. Shingo envisioned a collaboration with an organization that would further his life’s work through research, practical and rigorous education, and recognition of the best in enterprise excellence worldwide. In 1988, Utah State University collaborated with Dr. Shingo to establish the Shingo Prize®, an award that gives recognition to organizations with cultures of sustainable excellence. Since then, the Shingo Prize® has expanded into the Shingo Institute to realize Dr. Shingo’s vision of education and research.

Important Milestones

1989 – First Shingo Prize Awarded to Globe Metallurgical

1993 – First Version of the Shingo Model™ Developed

1994 – President of the United States Recognizes Shingo Prize® Recipients for the First Time
– First Shingo Research Award

2000 – Business Week Refers to the Shingo Prize® as the “Nobel Prize for Manufacturing”

2008 – Shingo Model™ Updated to Emphasize Principles, Culture and Results
– Bronze and Silver Medallion Categories Created

2009 – Focus on Executive Education Begins and Courses Are Developed

2010 – First Shingo International Conference

2011 – First Healthcare Organization to Receive the Shingo Prize®
– Non-U.S. Challengers for the Shingo Prize® Outnumber U.S. Challengers for the First Time

2012 – First Financial Industry Recipient of the Shingo Prize®

2014 – Shingo Workshop Teaching Switches Exclusively to Licensed Affiliate Companies

2015 – New Focus on Research with the Creation of a Director of Research Position
– Professor Rick Edgeman Becomes the First Director of Research for the Shingo Institute
– First Shingo Latin America Summit and First Shingo European Summit

Shingo Prize® Recipients

When an organization is ready, it can challenge for the Shingo Prize®. Shingo examiners visit the facility of the organization to judge how well it holds to the Shingo Model™. Silver and Bronze medallions are also awarded if there is still work to be done to reach Shingo Prize® standards. You can see a complete list of recipients at These are organizations that demonstrated they had the necessary components of a culture able to sustain improvements and consistently drive results.

Shingo examiners focus on determining the degree to which the Shingo Guiding Principles are evident in the behavior of every employee. They observe behavior and determine the frequency, duration, intensity and scope of the desired principle-based behavior. They observe the degree to which leaders focus on principles and culture, and the degree to which managers focus on aligning systems to drive ideal behaviors at all levels. Most importantly, they look at what results the organization’s efforts are yielding.

This focus is unique in the world and is the most rigorous way to determine if an organization is fundamentally improving for the long-term or just going through the motions of another flavor-of-the-month initiative. Recipients of Shingo Institute recognition fall into three categories:

  • Shingo Prize® – a worldwide recognized symbol of an organization’s successful establishment of a culture anchored on principles of enterprise excellence and results
  • Shingo Silver Medallion – those maturing on the journey with a focus primarily on tools and systems
  • Shingo Bronze Medallion – those in the earlier stages of cultural transformation with primarily a tools focus

Most organizations do not wait until they might qualify for the Shingo Prize® to challenge. Rather, they use this progression as a way to guide their journey of continuous improvement.

Getting There

Many organizations do not intend to ever challenge for the Prize but use the Shingo Model™ as the highest standard of excellence in the world to which they aspire. Often, leaders find that lean tools such as six sigma, jidoka, SMED, 5S, JIT, quality circles, etc., are not independently capable of effecting lasting change. Since 1988, Shingo examiners have seen first-hand how quickly tools-based organizations decline in their ability to sustain results. On the other hand, organizations that anchor their improvement initiatives to principles – or understand the “why” behind the “how” and the “what” – experience significantly better results.

To help organizations understand how they can use the Shingo Model™ to shape their organizational cultures to Shingo Prize® standards, there are four workshops available. A certified facilitator with a licensed Shingo Affiliate company teaches each workshop. The workshops, their descriptions and schedules are viewable at You can also download the free Shingo Model™ booklet there.

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