Like love, all we need is a little Kaizen to improve business outcomes and our lives. What’s Kaizen? Most professionals define it as “continuous improvement” and it was popularized in the manufacturing sector. As one of 14 principles described in the book The Toyota Way, Kaizen is described as an attitude of self-reflection and even self-criticism with a burning desire to improve.
Many years ago when I was certified as a Motorola University instructor for cycle time reduction and benchmarking, I proudly announced to my Hiroshima-native mother that I was going to be a Kaizen consultant. “Nani, Kaizen?” she asked with a smile on her face wanting to know how I defined the term. Using the definition I gleaned from my training, I said matter-of-factly, “Kaizen is about continuous improvement, managing gradual change and using existing resources efficiently.” Most technicians associate Kaizen with “eliminating waste or activities that add cost and not value” and a lot of energy is spent on looking at existing processes and identifying ways to shorten them for better efficiency and improved experiences for customers.
My wise mother then said, “Too complicated. Kaizen is simple. It means ‘good change.’ Kaizen is not just for manufacturers, it’s for everyone. As a poor girl growing up in a small fishing village, even I practice Kaizen—so I can be a little better today than yesterday.” She smiled again.
I later learned that my mom was right as I researched the definitions of Kaizen. The word “Kai” means “change” or “the action to correct,” and “Zen” means “Good” or “Improvement.” So Kaizen in Japanese means “change for the better” or “Improvement” and the English translation became “Continuous Improvement.” Truthfully, I like the way my mom explained it because it allows us to embrace Kaizen as principle in everything we do.
As a performance improvement consultant, I help organizations of various sizes practice Kaizen to improve processes, increase productivity, deliver better customer experiences and to work together cohesively to achieve organizational goals. I always weave in personal Kaizen and want employees to apply it to enrich their own lives and careers.
Welcome to our blog site and I hope we can share lots of ways to apply Kaizen in all we do!