I remember the time when many of the factories in the area of Wales where I grew up came under Japanese ownership and management. The new attitudes, methods and approach were nothing short of a huge shock to the local managers and workers! I remember having a conversation with one of the top executives at that time when he explained to me about the Japanese bosses’ visit to their factory . They had prepared thoroughly for their arrival and didn’t think there was much room for improvement. However, this was not the opinion of the visiting bosses! Their belief was that there was always room to improve.
That improvement might be very small but it was necessary. An improvement in quality, speed, process, safety, leadership or productivity – it didn’t matter what but it needed to happen!
This is the time when a new word was introduced to the local vocabulary, KAIZEN, a Japanese word that means “continuous improvement”. Kaizen was a system that involved everyone in the factory, from top management to the cleaning crew. Everyone was encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. This was not a once-a-month or once-a-year activity. It was continuous.
In most cases the suggestions were not ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety, effectiveness and efficiency while, at the same time, reducing waste.
Adopting the Kaisen corporate approach to our personal world can have a big impact. Small changes consistently made will have big results in our lives. The minutes we spend each day on managing some aspect of time usage could result in the future in having hours to spend doing something of greater value.
Kaizen is avoiding the crash diet weight loss method in favour of eating one bite less at each meal. Then, a month later, eating two bites less. Kaizen, as one person described it, is starting a life-changing exercise programme by standing, yes, just standing on a treadmill for one minute a day.
So, if you are slowly seeing the Kaizen way, why don’t you start your own personal Kaizen?
• The first step is to sit down and make a list of all the areas you want to improve in.
• The second step is to write down the one small next action you need to take in the direction of improvement.
• The third step is to take it!
Finally, set a date to review the above and apply it once again.
Make your improvements small and gentle and you’ll stick with them.Remember, Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis.
“To get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping”