Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy and practice of continuous improvement. This concept of continuous improvement was first conceived in the USA during WW2.
To maintain the production levels and meet demand, the industry had to come up with a system that would allow for incremental progress in production rather than no progress at all – which was very much the reality the industry was facing.
This concept of consistent incremental improvement proved to be a huge success and saved the US manufacturing industry from a rapid decline.
After WW2, as part of the rebuild programme for Japan, the Japanese were invited to visit manufacturing plants through out the USA. The Japanese took this successful concept of continuous improvement and adapted into Kaizen.
This philosophy formed the base from which the Japanese have built a manufacturing industry that dominates the world today.
In this article, I’ll look into what continuous improvement is and how you can make use of this concept to enhance your life.
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What does Kaizen (continuous improvement) have to do with you?
So what does Kaizen have to do with us? How can it help us enhance our personal lives?
“Persistence, perseverance, and continuous improvement are the ingredients for forming a successful person.” — Debasish Mridha
While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives.
The Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement I believe is a failure proof system that enables us to achieve and sustain our personal goals and dreams in life.
The concept of continuous improvement offers us a way where we can live our lives to the fullest by continuously learning, growing and thriving.
We live in a world of never ending disruption and change. By adopting the philosophy of Kaizen, we become more adaptable, flexible and resilient to dealing with the constant demands and disruptions we face in our lives.
What continuous improvement is exactly
The philosophy of Kaizen is based on the concept that instead of making big changes at once, the continuous improvement approach focuses on making small improvement over time.
Kaizen is often referred to as the “strategy for 1% gains”. It is these 1% gains that athletes focus on to improve their performance. The 1% gains are incremental and if you keep building on the 1% gains the rewards are phenomenal.
Continuous improvement is perpetual and so to maintain gains and improvement, you need to work on them continuously.
Your personal improvement journey is never finished! What this means is, if you are truly committed to philosophy of continuous improvement, you are less likely to quit because you are always in search of the next goal.
How continuous improvement empowers you
How many New Year resolutions have you made and never achieved over the years?
Unless you are one of the small minority who are goal orientated high achievers, maintaining motivation and the commitment to achieving your goals is hard work and dare I say it – with not much success – one big FAILURE after another.
Hence, these are the reasons why New Years’ resolutions are never achieved.
Continuous improvement can help you to achieve any goals you set. If you commit to the practice of continuous improvement, your motivation to achieve your goals and aspirations in life will never die.
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” — Benjamin Franklin
You will never have to struggle with the dilemma of giving up or giving in because it all became too hard.
Your achievements and success in life will be as a result of you taking continuous incremental steps toward your goals.
Continuous improvement is not about reaching the big goals in life but about taking small steps and improving and refining along the way.
How to commit to continuous improvement
If you truly desire a successful life where you are thriving, the first thing you must do is embrace and accept that your journey of self improvement and growth will never end. It is a lifelong journey of learning.
Once you have accepted that your journey to improving your life is life long, you then follow these steps:
1. Set your goals based on the philosophy of 1% incremental achievements
Remember that setting the goal is the easy bit. Keeping motivated, focused and on track to achieving any goal is the hardest part.
The concept of continuous improvement provides you with a system or a process that if you commit to following will enable you to confidently achieve any goal you set- you are guaranteed to win.
“Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want. Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.” — Brett and Kate McKay of The Art of Manliness
It might not seem like much but continuous 1% improvement/achievements every day will gradually add up to 100% and the goal is achieved!
In their book The Art Of Manliness, Brett and Kate McKay talk about how the journey of self improvement and personal growth is a lot like a rollercoaster ride – scary, exciting and with lots of ups and downs.
They believe that by following the concept of Kaizen (the 1% improvement) every day enables you to get off the roller coaster ride of feeling like a failure and being angry with yourself because you keep giving up.
2. Break down the system into small actions
Continuous improvement is a journey of personal growth where you are making long-term steady progress. It is not about random bursts of improvement with fits and starts of activity. This approach to self-improvement will not give you the sustainable long-term changes you seek to improve your life or achieve your goals.
For example, if you have huge debt and you want to pay it back but it is all too much, so you hide away from taking any action. To put the concept of continuous improvement into action, the first thing you need to do is not focus on how much you owe, instead focus on creating a system or process that enables you to pay back an incremental amount each week.
Once you have created the system, you must break down the system into small actions or behaviours with the least resistance and effort. Commit to these actions on a daily basis until your original system is habit.
Commit to paying back a realistic amount each week and then increase the amount you pay back by 1% plus every week after that. Keep going until the debt is paid off.
3. Keep track of your 1% success
The other important factor about incremental achievement is that you must measure and keep track of your 1% successes.
Evaluating and measuring your improvements are important for your own motivation and commitment to the journey. If you are not measuring your progress, your subconscious brain will kick in and sabotage your progress by convincing you that it is all too hard and you are not making any progress at all.
Your subconsious brain only believes what you tell it. Unfortunately you have told your brain a lot of untruthful things over a long period of time about how you are a failure, not motivated and never really achieved anything in life. Your subconscious brain as a result believes all these “facts” that you have told it to be true.
Measuring and evaluating your 1% successes is key to you retraining your subconscious to believe that Yes – you can achieve your goals and succeed in life!
Focus on the progress, always
Continuous Improvement does not focus on making huge gains or big improvements all at once. Instead it focuses on long-term steady progress.
When you follow the philosophy of Continuous Improvement, you won’t radically change your life but over time with consistent and constant improvement and change, you will find that you are living your life to the fullest – empowered, resilient and thriving.
Why would you not want to embrace this philosophy of incremental improvement and growth into your personal life?
“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will be a stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Sir Winston Churchill
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