Kaizen: Small Steps, Continuous Improvement

Kaizen is the Japanese word for “improvement” or “change for the better”. The aim of the practice of Kaizen is pretty simple, to eliminate waste in processes and continuously improve things in small (or large for that matter) and incremental ways. The idea is that this will ultimately lead to longer term efficiencies and better methods of operating.

  1. Do something
  2. Realize that something involved with doing that is inefficient or difficult
  3. Make changes to your process or actions
  4. Do something again, albeit slightly differently

One of the biggest sources of resistance for most people when they attempt to do something is the sheer magnitude and time involved with the task. Telling yourself you are going to repaint the entire interior of your house will probably immediately cause untold amounts of anxiety. In the spirit of Kaizen, break that huge project down into it’s component sub-parts and begin taking small steps in the general direction of your goal. Paint one room or one wall. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. Did you have the right brush  or roller nap? Did you have the proper drop cloth? Was your ladder too big or small? If changes need to be made then make them and move onto the next room or wall. Before you know it you will become more efficient and your large project will be completed.

Related Links:

More on Kaizen from Wikipedia

Book: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way

Thinking and Importance

In the words of Nobel Prize winner Danny Kahneman:

“Nothing is quite as important as you think it is while you’re thinking about it, so the mere act of thinking about something makes it more important than it’s going to be. So you’re thinking, “How much happier would I be living in California?” Well no, you won’t be a lot happier. “How much happier would I be if my income increased by 30%,” you think a lot. No, it wouldn’t. So just about everything that people think about, they exaggerate its importance.

Now, Mr. Kahneman made a name for himself in the fields of judgment and decision making and behavioral economics so he knows a thing or two about thinking.

This artificial level of importance placed on something by virtue of thinking about it is one more reason why you should do more and think less. The things you think about are never quite as important as you believe them to be. How many times have you done something that you had anxiety about and said, “ah, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be”? The doing wasn’t the bad part, it was the thinking that created the anxiety.

Related Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow