Did you know that successful elite executives, performers, athletes, and other professionals all have a secret to success? It’s a practice called “ kaizen,” and you can use it too!
If you’re a part of the corporate world, you may have heard about the productivity practice called “kaizen” as it is largely embraced by workplaces as a means of boosting efficiency and establishing best practices in business. You may not know, however, that kaizen is also a useful tool to implement in your everyday life as a means of training yourself to be more productive and make positive changes in your life.
First of all, what is kaizen? The word itself is derived from Japanese teachings, referring to positive improvement. In ancient Japanese culture, the word was not accompanied by any practical application, but today it is the practice of implementing small, daily adjustments with the intent to create positive changes in your life and work over time. The concept of constant, continuous improvement is meant to not only inspire change, but to encourage growth and the development of better habits over time. In short, kaizen is meant to not only affect your behavior, but also your mind in terms of the way that you think about your changes and progress.
What are the steps?
When implementing kaizen in your day-to-day life, it’s important to remember that you are primarily implementing a change in your mental philosophy rather than following a strict methodology. The goal is to change your mind and affect your thinking through personal effort and attention to detail. With this understanding, it’s possible to follow a methodical approach to changing your thought process through the main steps of kaizen listed below*:
- Identify an opportunity for growth. In your personal life, work life, family life, etc., there will always be areas where you can improve. When beginning to work with kaizen, start by selecting one area of your life that you would like to improve. Many people begin with health changes, like implementing a new nutritional program or exercise regimen.
- Analyze the process. What are you doing now? It may help to write down the steps of your process to identify what you do. For example, if you are hoping to alter your eating habits, consider what and when you eat each day, taking note of the times that you eat the way you want to eat, as well as the times when you make poor selections.
- Develop a single solution. To begin with, you will only want to make a single, though worthwhile, change to your process. For example, if you struggle with mid-morning snacking because you are not getting enough food at the start of your day, you may choose to make the simple change of packing a breakfast the night before or blending up a quick green smoothie in the morning before work. Choose just one new step to implement into your practice.
- Implement the Solution and Assess the Results. Once the solution has been implemented, asses the results. Are you saving time? Are you more efficient? Is the task easier to accomplish? Part of your assessment should include identifying whether the problem was solved or whether there is still more room for improvement. For example, if you decided to prepare a breakfast overnight to eat before work, but you’re still feeling hungry before lunch, you may have implemented a helpful change, but it did not quite solve the problem and will need some additional tweaking.
- Repeat. These steps can be repeated over and over with different solutions or slightly adjusted solutions until the desired results are reached.
*Different implementations of kaizen may have more or fewer steps, but the steps detailed above are designed to provide the most complete overview of the process at a personal level.
Kaizen is an excellent way to train your mind for change and development. Once you begin to think in these steps, it will be a lot easier for you to analyze processes and implement your own changes in your personal life and in your work. Of course, kaizen can be used to help improve all areas of your life, from dietary adjustments to workplace efficiency to personal growth. What would you use this philosophy to help you tackle in your life?
- One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Dr. Robert Maurer PhD (Book)
- “How to be 1% Better Every Day (The Kaizen Approach to Self-Improvement)” by Thomas Oppong (Article)
- Kaizen Vision: Small Steps Toward Living Your Vision (Website)