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Kaizen is a Japanese word that simply means “change for the better” or “improvement”. It is used for the name of a productivity tool which was originally introduced to the West in a book named Kaizen, the Key to Japan’s Competitive Success, written by a man named Masaaki Imai.
As described in the book, kaizen is actually the process of continual improvements, made in small steps, which eventually result in much greater productivity.
The idea is to involve all members of the business, asking each of them to recommend one small improvement to be made anywhere in the business.
If sixty workers, whether janitor or Chief Financial Officer, make a suggestion that saves an average one minute in the manufacturing process, that results in one hour being cut from the process.
Tiny amounts add up, especially if the process is continually under improvement.
This philosophy or productivity tool can also be used by a person who desires to improve his life. Maybe saving time is not the goal for him.
Maybe he wants to study a particular skill in order to change to a more desirable career.
If so, kaizen may be able to give him time for attendance in a class in that skill. Or maybe he could use that time to practice the desired skill.
He could even begin learning by seeking out YouTube videos or internet articles that teach that skill.
Kaizen has great power to change things. It could be used to improve one’s life in other ways, also.
How to Use Kaizen to Reach a Life Goal
Perhaps you want to write the Great American Novel, but you despair of producing such a prodigious amount of work.
If you set a goal of writing 500 words per day, you could produce a 40,000 word novel by meeting your goal for 80 continuous days.
That’s less than three months.
Kaizen is obviously a permutation of the baby steps you are often urged to take to reach your goals. Both are designed to move the mind along the arc from today’s situation to the goal with a minimum of pain and stress.
Whichever title you give it, kaizen or baby stepping, the system works if you persist with the small continual improvements or steps needed to reach your goal.
You simply need to be clear on the ultimate goal, and you need to be sure that your improvements or baby steps actually include the necessary activity to meet your goal.
Continually testing and choosing better writing instruments will not take you to your goal of having written a novel.
You do have to actually choose words and write them down or record them in some fashion, in order to reach this goal.
Choosing a favorite method of recording the words might be one small step, but it can’t be the main activity.
My suggestion would be to list several small steps you can make quickly and easily. For the aspiring writer, it might include a list such as this:
Find my favorite pen and a spiral notebook.
Decide where I can write most comfortably.
Make sure I have my favorite beverage.
Find index cards on which to keep notes about character, plot developments, and research notes.
Set early alarm to allow writing time before leaving for work.
Oh yeah, you then need to make sure you include the main activity toward accomplishing your goal.
Write 500 words* every day.
Then you should choose a step and get started.
If, after several days you are not making progress toward your goal, go back and reassess the steps you have listed and have chosen to do.
Make small improvements as needed. And there you go — kaizen!
*By the way, this post is approximately 620 words long, for comparison.