The Kaizen Method 101
For anyone who has embarked on a journey toward self-improvement or personal growth, you know that the better version of yourself seems to lie at the other end of a roller coaster ride. The path to transformation is uneven, mostly uphill, and often includes many setbacks that leave you questioning your choice to start. The Kaizen method is an approach to improvement that helps you embrace the marathon that is continuous growth, rather than expecting instant results and gratification. Instead of looking for ways to make it all better RIGHT NOW, this approach adopts a more realistic strategy that leads to success over time.
Understanding the Kaizen Method
Unlike the notion of radical change, the Kaizen method is an approach the focuses on continuous, incremental improvement that leads to significant, long-term change. Many people talk about Kaizen as being the “1 percent rule,” because instead of trying to make changes in substantial leaps and bounds, you instead focus on doing one small thing every single day that will get you closer to your final outcome.
The method was developed as a business model to promote lean manufacturing. You may know it as “The Toyota Way,” because it was famously adopted by that manufacturer to ensure quality control and to achieve transformation within the auto industry in Japan. The opposite of this approach could be called “radical innovation,” in which a company or person attempts to make drastic changes very quickly. Anyone who has been on a strict and very limited diet can tell you what happens when you change everything very quickly. Change is much harder to realize.
The Kaizen method instead emphasizes a simple philosophy that every day, you are focusing on getting just a little bit better than you were the day before, in whatever way you are trying to change or improve. The power of this method is that these small, incremental changes compound on each other, and minuscule changes in the beginning soon combine with other minor changes to create more significant, lasting effects.
While it was originally developed as a business model, the Kaizen method is also applicable to personal growth and development. The advantage of this type of approach to improvement is that it gets you off the roller coaster of ups and downs usually associated with making changes in your life. Instead of focusing on big, long-term goals that will not be realized until far into the future, the Kaizen method helps you focus instead on small, discrete steps that are achievable today, where you are, and with your current capabilities.
The underlying foundations of Kaizen state that there is no magic bullet that will suddenly change your life or make everything better. And the sooner you realize and embrace this, the sooner you can actually start improving your life in meaningful ways. Change is hard, and it comes through small steps taken every day. It comes through continuous improvement, not overnight transformation.
The Kaizen method is a process, not a goal. It is not something you ever really achieve as it is something you commit to doing every day. Once you reach a specific goal, Kaizen thinking can help you maintain your results or secure your gains. As an inspirational speaker once said, “Success isn’t owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due every day.” If you want to succeed, you have to do the hard work every day, so you might as well make that work a part of your daily habits so that it becomes who you are and what you do in the process.