The Kaizen philosophy is one which has been used by many successful companies in order to encourage employees to continually improve, and rather than scold them for mistakes, it encourages them to continuously evaluate what went wrong and then improve on it.
In Business Kaizen is defined as those activities that continuously improve all functions & involve ALL employees from the CEO to the Assembly worker.
Applied to Life, Kaizen means an approach to creating continuous improvement based on the idea, that small ongoing positive changes can reap major improvements.
Kaizen was first practiced in Japanese businesses after World War II, influenced in part by American business and quality-management teachers, and most notably became known as The Toyota Way.
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity: “The idea is to nurture the company’s people as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in Kaizen activities.”
Successful implementation requires “the participation of ALL workers in the improvement.”
People at all levels of an organization need to participate together for the greater good of the company.
This got me thinking, what if we applied to the kaizen approach to our lives, in order to live our best lives? What if we followed a process that involved everyone in our family unit and got them all working together but still on their on their own, for the greater good of achieving our family goals? What if we applied the Kaizen cycle for continuous improvement, to help us continually improve our lives, build an efficient and effective production line like life, where everything happens for a reason, everything has intent and contributes towards the greater good of the “family”? Giving those involved enough room to explore on their own, learn and fail, but still ensuring they remain focused and continually improve?
Kaizen cycle for continuous improvement (adapted to life):
Get everyone involved. Ensure the involvement of your spouse or partner, almost demand it, doing so creates buy-in for change and alignment of goals.
Identify problem areas together. This requires each of you to identify the issues you currently face, it requires each of you to be brutally honest about your shortcomings and remember its for the greater good of achieving what you want down the line, it also enables you to identify possible opportunities.
Create and encourage solutions. Encourage each other to offer solutions in order to overcome the problems identified. Be open to each other’s ideas, and listen to each other. Pick those ideas that you both think will work.
Test the solution. Give it a go, keep an open mind and implement the solutions identified, ensuring both of you implement as agreed, taking small steps regularly to ensure effective results.
Measure and Analyze the results. Implement evaluation points, Identify who is responsible for which action and hold them accountable to check the progress and effectiveness of the solutions.
Standardize. If the results are positive and meaningful to each of you, adopt them in your everyday life, make them “your way of doing things”.
Repeat. Kaizen is not a once of process, it can be used as an overarching plan and then used within the plan to continuously improve, it should be done regularly to make small manageable change, before they get too big. Like anything, if it works, keep doing it.
This may seem like a pretty scientific way of going about things, but it’s really pretty simple. Identify the life we want and the key role players in that life (spouse, children etc), identify the things that work towards achieving the life we want and those things that work against it, and then do more of the right things and less of the wrong things more frequently, we should get there. It’s not a perfect science, because life happens, but if we are aware and aligned and prepared to work at it, it will work out.