Chances are, if someone came up to you and started talking about the term kaizen, you probably wouldn’t have much interest in the word or be eager to hear about what they have to say. While the term kaizen isn’t exactly a head-turning term for most, it is one that you may want to start paying more attention to, as practicing the art of kaizen can dramatically change your life for the better.
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen is a Japanese term that describes the art of continuous improvement. While many in Japanese culture have been familiar with this term for some time, most people were first introduced to kaizen in the book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success in 1986. Whether you are familiar with the book and this concept or not, the idea of kaizen is regarded as one of the important core foundations of Japan’s long-term success.
Simply put, kaizen is based on the idea that big results can come from small changes that you make over time. It is not about big changes or quick results, it is about doing the little things to see the changes you want, and to constantly be improving and constantly doing these little things to make change.
It doesn’t just work in Japanese culture, although it is a way of life for many people living in Japan. Organizations from all over the world are starting to create a culture of continuous improvement within their workplace, to harness the power of this idea and turn it into actual results for their company.
So, How Does it Work?
Applying kaizen to your everyday life is actually extremely simple.
Think about kaizen in the way that you would think about losing weight through diet and exercise. You can starve yourself and run yourself ragged for a week if you want to drop a few pounds fast, but is that sustainable? No. You may lose some weight at first, but chances are you will only gain it back.
If you want to lose weight that you can actually keep off, you need to make small changes that are sustainable. It doesn’t mean cutting out every piece of junk food in one sitting, it will only cause you to relapse back to your old ways. It is about making small, sustainable and maintainable changes that can lead you to a healthier lifestyle.
Kaizen works the same way. It is all about making these small changes that you can sustain and utilize to become the best version of yourself possible.
Here is how you can apply it:
1. Come up with a small change or activity that you can repeat. What small change can you make to better your life or your work?
2. Use data to determine whether this new process is effective. Can you measure how it’s working?
3. Compare this process to the results you were seeing before. Are you saving time?
4. Continue to find new ways to achieve the same results and improve on efficiency. Can you make more small changes to get even better?5. Make a detailed, defined process that you can repeat. How can I write this down in a clear manner?
Then, go back and do the entire process over again.
This many seem very minuscule in terms of changes and rather exhausting when it comes to repeating the process, but it is a very manageable approach and one that is worth putting the time into.
Kaizen in the Professional World
For many, Kaizen is a personal journey and a personal way of life to constantly be bettering themselves so they can be the best version of themselves they can be. However, kaizen can also be applied to the workplace.
In a work environment, a kaizen strategy challenges employees at all levels of the company to work together in a proactive manner to start making small improvements to their process. The idea is, if everyone does something small to improve their efficiency and work every day, as a whole the company will make big changes and big strides.
Most work environments today focus on finding ways to make major changes by ramping up productivity, whether it is for a single project or for the long-haul. Kaizen, on the other hand, is all about small, improvements to better yourself. While it isn’t as extreme as some productivity solutions, it isn’t support to be. It is a way to streamline productivity and improvements and to make actual changes that are both sustainable and effective.
When all members, at all levels are utilizing kaizen to make small, instrumental changes in their workplace productivity, it can lead to massive results across the entire organization.
Whether you want to make changes at home or in the boardroom, give this practice a try and start making the small changes today that can lead to big changes in your future.