改善 – What does KAIZEN mean to you?

These characters and this word likely looks familiar to the most of you. This word has been a word that I have centered my career around for the last decade and a bit.

I used to think that kaizen was only for the front line of the organization. The place where the “real work” happened. For the most part I believed that change needed to be focused on the process and not the people. But I have learned something over the last while.

Kaizen has most commonly been interpreted as “continuous improvement”. But if you unpack this word a more literal interpretation would be “change for the better”.

Not exactly the same thing. Something else I have learned in my research and study is something that Taiichi Ohno once said about the second character 善 – zen. He said that “The character is used for anything related to people and their behavior.”

So this got me thinking. If the second character indicates more of a people and behavior context then why are we in the Western world thinking this is all about process? 

This points to the idea that Masaaki Imai once stated that: “The Kaizen Philosophy assumes that our way of life – be it our working life, our social life, or our home life – deserves to be constantly improved.”

So I have changed my mind with learning more about what kaizen actually means in a Japanese context. 

What I am more inclined to think now is that kaizen is about changing behaviors in order to create better outcomes. It isn’t just about improving process metrics or process steps.

In essence, this is the main theme of the book I am writing. The premise is such that we as individuals need to be focused on improving ourselves first if we want different outcomes. Then we look to process and others.

Work:Life Harmony is a lifelong process of continually improving upon ourselves and our behaviors to get the outcomes we truly want. But it all starts within. Kaizen is a deeply personal concept to me, and more so over the last few months of really studying and learning.

What does kaizen mean to you?

#kaizen #change #behavior #continuousimprovement

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