Kaizen: Continuous Small Improvements
Kaizen is the Japanese word for ‘improvement’. This concept was first developed in Japan by the US teams who came in to help restructure the economy after WWII and a notable champion of the approach was Dr W. Edwards Deming.
The Kaizen approach is now normally used to describe continuous small improvements in any area, including personal development where it especially useful since well-intentioned but major life improvement revolutions tend to be short-lived.
The perils of the Brand New Start
Have you ever made a major Brand New Start in your life? You began a serious and strenuous exercise programme? You went on a diet that was going to return your shape to how it was 20 years ago?
Or your new start involved changing from its opposite to being very tidy, efficient and productive – or very sociable?
Or you decided to fully commit to a new hobby and bought loads of gear for it – without really assessing how satisfying it was going to be for you?
…only to discover, a relatively short time later, that you’d given up and gone back to the old ways?
Well, that’s one argument for making continuous small improvements. Try to change too much, all at once, and a part of you rebels – and quickly gets you back to normal! Or the people around you ‘rebel’ because they don’t like the effect your New Start is having on them.
Whatever the reasons for this common phenomenon – and there are many – it’s a good argument for Kaizen, for improving in small continuous steps.
Being more positive
If you try to ‘be more positive’ about everything the realistic side of your nature will soon undermine your new start.
But if you decide you’ll take a more positive attitude towards, say traffic hold-ups, and you’ll find after a few weeks that it’s taken hold.
How do you apply the Kaizen approach?
- Plan: Prepare the evening before – choose your topic or behaviour. Plan how you will integrate it into your day.
- Visualise: Take a few moments in first thing the morning to mentally plan and visualise the day ahead. If you’re very rushed in the morning you can do this while washing, shaving, putting on make-up, or preparing your hair.
- Set up reminders: the events of the day will soon put all thoughts of your new resolution out of your head – unless your prepare for this. Mentally set up ‘milestones’ that will remind you of your project – such as whenever you turn the ignition key in the car, whenever you replace the phone on the cradle, whenever you visit the toilet, etc. Use these moments to consider and re-visualise your project.
- Re-view the day: take a few moments when you are finished your working day and review how things went. If you completely forgot about your project what can you learn from that – and apply to tomorrow’s plan? This is the essential ingredient of Kaizen – continually learning from your experience.
By Reg Connolly