The first time I ever heard of the concept “Kaizen”, was when I was a university student trying to unravel the secret to Japan’s competitive success.
I was completely fascinated by it. It was like I stumbled onto the mantra that will guide me through both my professional and personal life.
“Kaizen”, as it turns out, is the Japanese concept of continuous improvement.
Founded by Japanese Management Guru Masaaki Imai, it outlines that good enough never is good enough. There is always room for improvement through the evolution of change and that a small step, no matter how mundane it may seem, can completely change your life.
Through Kaizen, we can see and learn how to address little problems and their cumulative will lead to successful change in the workplace and professional realm.
Dr. Robert D. Naurer, an American Industrial Physicist and author of ‘The Kaizen Way’ stated: “Change must always be instantaneous, it must always require steely self-discipline, and it must never be pleasurable.”
Very direct, but I couldn’t agree more.
Throughout my life I’ve learnt that as humans, we’re creatures of habit. Change is not usually innate to us and it happens as a result of two circumstances and only two circumstances: Inspiration and desperation.
Leading corporations attain their extraordinary position not so much because of superior insight or sneaky conspiracies, but largely because of the simple fact that they are terribly demanding of themselves. They understand that contentment leads to myopia, which in turn leads to decline.
For them, a strong catalyst to change is to have some sort of discomfort mechanisms in place to combat the probability of complacency.
So how does someone apply this to their personal life? The very first step is to foster what “Built To Last” authors, James C. Collins and Jerryy I. Porras so eloquently called “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”, or BHAGS.
“A BHAG engages people - it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It is tangible, energising, highly focused. People “get it” right away; it takes little or no expression,” they wrote.
A BHAG it is a powerful mechanism to stimulate change because it ignites feelings of unsatisfaction with the status quo. By asking yourself “What is a small step I could take towards reaching my goal?”, you will be unconsciously using the Kaizen method to incur small and continuous changes that aren’t overwhelming or scary. Their amalgamation will eventually lead to your impetus BHAG which unifies your focal point of effort.
People like to shoot for finish lines. They are the only tool that can foster both feelings of inspiration and desperation and propel you to continuous improvement. For both in business and in life, it stands true, that good enough never quite is.
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