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Whether it’s personal or professional, we all have things in life that we’d like to improve on.
Perhaps you’re eager to find a way to perfect your marketing strategies or negotiating skills, or looking for ways to upgrade your products and services.
Put your business on a firm path towards premium brand status by committing to routinely asking yourself “How can this be done better?”
This is the spirit of kaizen — a formal methodology we can use to boost quality and efficiency. Let’s explore how.
What Is Kaizen?
Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates as continuous improvement or change for the better.
In essence, it’s a business philosophy founded on the concept of boosting efficiency and product quality by means of incremental improvements that each build on the previous — thereby exponentially accelerating performance and productivity.
Takeaway: Kaizen embodies the concept that the entire workforce and all functions of a business should continuously pursue the improvement of its working practices and output.
The notion of kaizen — of implementing regular, positive change — first came about following the Second World War, when a number of Japanese companies determined that they could dramatically enhance their products and working techniques through a continuous stream of small improvements.
Exposure to the more efficient manufacturing processes in the USA — through Edward Deming — helped these Japanese companies see the potential to improve upon their traditional, ingrained working methods by adopting an improvement-centered philosophy.
And so kaizen was born.
Why is kaizen important for your business?
If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s impossible to get by in this day and age without some measure of continued improvement and growth.
Due to the rapid acceleration in technological advancements and the communication capabilities of our digital age, things happen faster and faster — and more and more people are competing for their piece of the pie — so stagnation is pretty much death these days.
Technology, industrial techniques, and even language are all constantly being accelerated and reinvented.
What might be this week’s hip, new gadget or app could well be next week’s old news.
Failing to keep pace with these developments can be detrimental — and even fatal — to the potential growth of your business.
And when it comes to improvements, a broad brush approach simply won’t do.
Takeaway: What it takes to reach your full potential is a committed and incremental methodology for never-ending improvement.
Focusing on manageable, bite-sized objectives, whatever the area you’re looking to improve upon, gives you the best chance of accomplishing goals and keeping pace with the exponential growth in technology.
Remember that improvement takes time and patience — attempting to take on too much too soon will only lead to disappointment, demoralization, and could make it even less likely that you’ll follow through in the future.
What Are the Steps to Practice Kaizen?
There are many improvement frameworks available. But for the purposes of this guide, we’ll breakdown a kaizen cycle using the following six steps:
- Calibration — Develop an ordered and logical system, which is capable of replication, for each particular task you’re hoping to improve upon.
- Evaluation — Determine whether or not the process has achieved positive results by assessing measurable statistical data. The information you use as a benchmark for this will obviously depend on the activity being evaluated.
- Comparison — Match up the data you’ve collected with the results you were hoping to achieve, and analyze the extent to which there’s a discrepancy (if any) between the two.
- Revision — If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Identify where there might be room for improvement and fine-tune your model to make it even more effective. This step of the process will have the most influence on the productivity of your end result.
- Calibration — Repeat Step 1 above, but this time insert your newly revised, remodeled, and improved upon activity.
- Repetition — Don’t stop. Kaizen is a continual and never-ending process. Always be on the look-out for new and creative techniques to boost quality, efficiency, and productivity.
And then follow these six steps over and over, while continually resetting goals to drive ever-accelerating improvement targets.
What will you transform?
Keep in mind that kaizen may not be an appropriate philosophy for each and every one of your business practices. But a little bit of trial and error will help you get a feel for the areas in which it is most effective.
When approached as a gradual and incremental series of improvements to your overall business practices, not only will kaizen become second nature, it will produce transformative results.
As always, start simple and never stop improving.
To your exponential success!