Kaizen is a Japanese term and much grander concept that in essence means taking a continuous change for the better. In practice, the Kaizen method has become a business philosophy in which achieving gradual advancements across the board leads to perpetual improvement. The methodical process involves everyone consistently taking small steps towards advancing, recognizing needs, and defining any obstacles. The method works to develop teamwork, impart accountability and improve morale as well as systematically opens the communication channels for suggestions for improvement.
The Kaizen business model was most notably first utilized in the rebuilding of modern Japan in the aftermath of World War II, but since then it has become the guiding principle for countless institutions in a variety of sectors including, but certainly not limited to government, banking, manufacturing, healthcare, and personal development.
The practices applied to businesses in Kaizen were most prominently defined by Japanese organizational theorist Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success, which was released in 1986, the same year he also founded the Kaizen Institute Consulting Group (KICG) to introduce the concept centered on quality management to western countries. Since then, it has also famously formed the basis for The Toyota Way 2001, which serves as the automotive giant’s guiding principles. Kaizen is also integral in the Entrepreneurial Operating System, in short EOS, which is a set of tools and principles designed to guide entrepreneurs to optimize their operations.
To put the process in a nutshell, the Kaizen method can be described in four stages:
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First, you set the stage for the action you want to embark on. Then, you simply start as quickly and as easily accessible as possible. The next step is to assess your progress and detect if there are any hindrances. And lastly, you act on and optimize your actions according to what your findings show you.
Small and gradual steps for endless growth
The Kaizen method has proven time and time again and in countless capacities that taking small steps towards continuous growth is the most advantageous way to achieve anything you set your mind to. In all of the best-selling books ever to be published on the topic of habits, the concept of starting off small to achieve long-lasting results have been thoroughly studied and shown to be the ultimate way to bring on any sort of permanent change into your life.
True transformation happens when it is sustainable and the way to make any new habit or action sustainable is to incorporate it into your life incrementally. When you take tiny actions towards what you want, you can easily adjust your lifestyle to make room for them. It is the ease and clear direction of where the new habit fits that makes the habit stick. Then, once you begin practicing any habit regularly, those baby steps taken initially just naturally tend to grow, and eventually you will find you have made leaps and bounds towards where you wanted to go.
It’s all about enjoying the process
An integral part of Kaizen is being aware of the process at hand and enjoying the journey. If any element of the process is not properly aligned then recognizing what the potential obstacles are and tweaking them immediately is the next step of the game. It is having the awareness, accountability and problem-solving capabilities that is what works to level up whatever it is that you do. This way you know that you are constantly optimizing the process, which means you will only continue to enjoy it even more down the road.
Slow and steady wins the race…
Kaizen can be applied to anything in life, be it leading a company, increasing productivity, establishing healthy habits, and even forging relationships. There are also limitless ways to put the method into practice. But the one constant when it comes to anything that will increase your quality of life is as the old adage goes: slow and steady is what will win the race. Let’s say you want to start a running practice or have even gone so far as to set your sights on taking part in a marathon. If you were to just start off running on the very first day, well even your body, if it could speak, would tell you that is not a sustainable way. Anyone who trains for a marathon, or simply wants to start running will know that it is wise, if not mandatory, to start off slow and build endurance along the way. It is literally and physically, the only way.
So then how do you start? Well, you start off small. Begin by designating the time you will be embarking on any new activity, but don’t start off by time blocking something that is unachievable. Set yourself up for success by starting off small and starting off slow, and if need be, for even just five minutes. And, by consistently spending any amount of time on any task at hand you will soon see yourself improving at what it is you are doing. Thus, will gradually devote more and more time, albeit in small increments, to that new task. Taking minute steps towards incorporating any new action into your life also allows for the introspection necessary to optimize any new action. If the timeframe, or the task itself, isn’t working for you or others involved, then it is easy to continually make adjustments that better fit your lifestyle.
So many people tend to just dive in headfirst into something the moment they realize they want it. But the thing is, biting off too much to chew will make you choke. You can easily end up with a bitter taste in your mouth, which will quickly dissuade you from wanting to continue or come back for more. But if you take small bites of something that you can easily digest then it goes down easier. Similarly, you don’t want to burn out on something before you begin to benefit from it.
With Kaizen, analyzing, brainstorming, and problem-solving naturally come as the result of taking meaningful action regardless of how small. To be consistent in anything, we need to want to do it and enjoy the process along the way. But we also need to hold ourselves accountable for our own progress and have the vision to be able to make the necessary tweaks when something is not optimal. Having this critical eye being part of the Kaizen method makes what might have been perceived as challenges become part of the very process.
As a result, nothing becomes intimidating and everything entirely achievable. What may have been considered problems, are now part of the solution and an opportunity to gain further insight. And this knowledge then becomes integral in optimizing the entire process. With Kaizen serving as a guiding light and by beginning with even the tiniest of steps, you can immediately start to live your best life possible and make anything you want in life entirely achievable.