On the occasion when I cycle to work, I follow a meandering river and enjoy the scenery while mentally preparing myself for the last 2km to my office. The last stage is an arduous ascent from the valley below to the industrial complex where my office is situated. I never enjoy the climb, my muscles are sore and I use all of my bike’s 24 gears to make it easier! I endured this ascent for many months until I explored another way. The new route takes me through a forest at a very relaxed pace. Instead of dreading the last climb, I now enjoy the slow steady ascent and arrive relaxed to the office. It is now easy, without stress and a picture of how I should treat every big goal in my life. By taking small insignificant steps, I now enjoy the slow ascent to achieving my goals.
The philosophy of small improvements is termed, Kaizen, originally from the Japanese automotive giant, Toyota; it is now common in all industries and personal development circles. Kaizen is the art of finding and taking small steps to reach those larger goals
Kaizen at Home
You can use Kaizen to improve anything in your life. If you want to improve your fitness, consider 1 minute of exercise while watching tv. The next day exercise for 2 minutes and each day increase slowly. This is easy to do and you cannot refuse yourself and cannot fail. You create this winning culture and mindset inside and slowly meet your fitness goals. This is a far better approach than starting a grueling 30 minutes exercise program at the local gym and giving up after the second week!
Kaizen at Work
At work, you should start the daily habit of making very small improvements in your job. Ask yourself if there is something I can do a little better today to save time for myself or others. Remember if we are employed we have two jobs, one is to conduct the business we are employed to do and the second is to improve that process for the benefit of ourselves and the company. Search for a task that is so small and easy to do that will take very little time and add so much value. These small improvements will compound over time to bring much large improvements to your company.
Kaizen for the Team Leader
The amygdala is the part of the brain that handles our basic emotional instincts of ‘fight or flight’. If you set a large and frightening goal, your amygdala will be alerted, you may feel threatened and your emotional response will be intensified.
The ‘fight’ component may present itself with rejecting change, not using the new process or passive aggressive tendencies to avoid the new project or task. The ‘flight’ component may be revealed with absenteeism or a request to leave the team.
If you are introducing something new, consider that your team may be anxious when faced with a large goal. Set the vision, paint the picture of the great new world but don’t inform them of all the details and challenges, this will sometimes create a debilitating effect on the team, freeze their creativity and make them ineffective.
Set the vision and then outline the small Kaizen steps to get there, steps that your team can easily manage. Do not wake up the amygdala and cause unnecessary distress. This way you will allow Kaizen to trump the amygdala and reach your goals.
Making Steps and Leaving Footprints…
(The thoughts expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent the views of my employer.)