Mr. Masaaki Imai is the first person to introduce Kaizen to the world outside of Japan. He used his book “Kaizen, the Key to Japan’s Competitive Success” to help spread the word.
In this article, we are going to look at ten steps to success with the Kaizen art of continuous improvement.
Step One: Continue Learning
To start with, it is important that you realize that kaizen is unconventional. This means that it is not necessary to keep learning all our lives through.
Therefore, the basic idea is to realize that as you go along in life, you should always have to keep learning because new and innovational ideas are continuously popping up around every corner … the world continues to grow, and so should your mind.
Step Two: Continue thinking about how YOU can do Something
People have a tendency to focus on the negative – are you a victim of “negative thinking?” Instead of focusing on the things you are not able to do, what you should be doing right now is focusing your mind on those things you can do. This is called being an optimistic forward thinker. Continue down this path and before you know it, you’ll be accomplishing something new that you never thought was possible.
Always keep your mind forward and focus on the outcome and instead of finding ways that the outcome cannot be accomplished, find ways that the outcome CAN be accomplished.
Step Three: Eliminate Those Excuses
“I didn’t do this because …” stop right there – stop making excuses. Making excuses is the biggest excuse in the book not to do something. Start by seeking answers to current practices by asking questions. Focus on the outcome and then start to take action. If you continue to try, you won’t get stuck – you will continuously go in a forward motion.
Step Four: Never give up and never strive for perfection
“Giving up” shouldn’t even be in your vocabulary. Giving up is a failure, and that is not acceptable. On the same level, you must never strive for perfection, because by doing so, you are only setting yourself up for failure. Once you have accomplished something up to a certain point, don’t just walk away, instead, keep at it until you have completed it all the way. Yes, of course, there may be problems along the way, but as you go along, you can make adjustments.
Step Five: Correct the mistakes
As you’re doing something, mistakes are probably going to pop up at unexpected times. If this happens, don’t keep going.
Instead, find the solution to the mistake. Find out where you went wrong so that you can avoid that mistake the second time. It goes without saying “we learn from our mistakes.” If the mistake involves other people, then do everything you can do to correct it as quickly as possible.
Step Six: Don’t forget about your intelligence
Don’t just spend money for kaizen; you should also be using your intelligence. The key to this is action. Start off by learning everything you need to know, then take action based on what you have learned.
Step Seven: Challenges are learning opportunities
Everyone has their challenges they have to get through in life. When a challenge walks in your path, you should recognize it as a learning opportunity.
Honestly, if we didn’t have these challenges, we probably wouldn’t learn as much as we know today. Obstacles will pop up most everywhere when you least expect it. Just remember that everything you do will make you become a better person. Jump over those hurdles, learn to overcome them and be rewarded for those actions in the end. After one challenge goes away, another challenge may pop up in front of you, so be prepared to jump over that one as well.
Step Eight: Don’t be afraid to ask “Why.”
So many people are afraid of the question “why.” Does that sound like you? Stop being afraid; there is nothing wrong with asking why.
By asking why you will be able to discover what the base of the task is that you want to accomplish – it will help you understand it better. By understanding why something needs to be done, your chances of completing the task from start to finish will increase. Also, you should also consider the fact that by asking “why” and learning the reason behind it, you will be adding to your knowledge.
Step Nine: Group thinking is a good thing
Group thinking is something that you should think about. In our opinion, it is always better to seek the wisdom of ten people, than the knowledge of one person. You see, there is a tremendous amount of power in “group thinking.”
This could involve holding a meeting with a group of people and brainstorming together – this is how things get done. It is better to discuss a task with a group of people as this will increase the chances of the task getting done the right way – if you are getting the answers from one person that may not know how things are done, your chances of failing will increase.
So, with those thoughts in mind, it is important that you remember to ask how something is done from people who have already gone through the process and completed – don’t be afraid to ask a group of people for some help with a task that needs completing.
Step Ten: Kaizen is infinite
Here we are, at the final step – with this step, it is important that you realize that kaizen is infinite. This is a process of learning and growing gradually, steadily, and continually.
Often, it will help to remember that life is a continuous journey, it isn’t a destination – you must continue to move through it. If you practice the philosophy of continuous improvement, then you will be making the most of this journey we call life.
If you want to continue to improve your life, you can’t sit there, and the couch and expect “Mr. Improvement” to knock on your front door and automatically take place. Improvement in life, regardless of who you may be, is something that is going to take time and work – it takes a whole lot of action.
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