Kaizen!: 𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗣𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗢𝗿𝗴𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗞𝗻𝗼𝘄𝗹𝗲𝗱𝗴𝗲 𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗜𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that translates to “good change” or “continuous improvement.” It is an extension of the Japanese value system and a stepwise approach to change.
The Kaizen philosophy assumes that our way of life deserves constant improvement in all areas, including work life, social life, and private life.
The Kaizen philosophy does not seek any change, but instead, it promotes the identification of goals, both short-term and long-term. Then, it encourages taking small, manageable steps to achieve these goals.
The guiding principles of the Kaizen philosophy include:
Small steps lead to significant leaps.
All changes are frightening.
The brain is programmed to fight or flee, and small steps enable the nervous system to adjust and cope with these reactions.
Asking small positive questions creates a mental environment that promotes creativity and playfulness.
Repeated questioning enables a focus on problem-solving and action-taking.
Kaizen is also a management philosophy.
During WWII, US companies struggled to be innovative, ensure quality supply for the war effort, and maintain the morale of their workforce. The US government created Training within Industries (TWI) management programs, which promoted “continuous improvement” instead of radical, innovative changes to achieve goals. The focus was on employees directing their attention to work practices and proposing improvement opportunities rather than waiting for them to be dictated from above. After the war, American companies no longer needed to rely on programs for continuous improvement, but the Japanese industry was decimated, and morale was low. TWI programs were exported to Japan, and in the late 1950s, the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) used the Japanese term Kaizen for the continuous improvement approach.
Kaizen is applicable as an Organizational Development Instrument (ODM):
Kaizen should be applied to every part of an organization.
A culture of continuous improvement requires improvements from every individual, everywhere, and every day.
The focus is on long-term, stepwise improvements rather than rapid, drastic changes.
Kaizen begins with the realization that every organization has problems.
It creates a corporate culture where problems can be openly admitted.
The goal of Kaizen is to offer products/services with the highest quality in both products/services and processes, the lowest life-cycle costs, and timely delivery of the product or service quantity.
- Kaizen focuses on:
- Human Performance
- Work Atmosphere
- Continuing Education
Kaizen is also applicable as a Personal Knowledge Management Instrument (PKM):
All individuals have an instinctive desire to improve themselves.
The person evaluates their life according to a set of criteria and makes suggestions and changes in areas such as
- mental, and
The individual works on a plan with small actions they can take to bring about improvements.
As a result, individuals have better habits and happiness, more demanding behaviors related to emotional intelligence, and spiritual engagement in life as a whole.
In summary, the Kaizen approach can be applied as both an organizational and personal tool for continuous improvement. The guiding principles and focus on stepwise improvements are applicable in both contexts. Organizations can use Kaizen to create a culture of continuous improvement, while individuals can use it to improve their personal and professional lives.