There’s no question that improving processes is a critical component to success in any business or organization. The challenge lies in being able to find that consistency of improvement in a way that allows for maximum productivity and minimally wasted effort.
But as professionals shouldn’t we be implementing these same principles into our own workflows? In my experience, professionals struggle the most with implementing a consistent improvement strategy for themselves. There is a belief that the tools used to improve processes aren’t applicable in a personal sense. But is this really true?
Can you relate to this…
You may have be all too familiar with the following scenario; we set goals, milestones, and targets, but don’t have a plan in place to make sure we actually hit them. We don’t have good measurable systems in place and the result is they never come to fruition. All we are left with is feeling frustrated and exhausted.
This leads to losing confidence in ourselves to be able to complete projects or tasks and give up trying to set goals. Eventually we just let things take their own course, floating in the sea with no sail and no motor.
Month after month we see time slipping by. We don’t see our goals coming true and are not connected to the work we are doing. We lose hope. We only just wait for the weekend and dread the next Monday’s arrival.
So why do we get stuck in this loop?
What I have found is that we are stuck in the middle of a business philosophy that is over 100 years old that doesn’t support or reward the idea of personal incremental improvement.
That business philosophy rewards maintaining a status quo or supports giant transformational change that results in a new status quo. But it does not reward the idea of incrementally moving in the direction you want to go.
Reason being is that moving in an incremental way sometimes seems a little unclear and you don’t have a lot of certainty of the results you are going to get. When we think about this in a personal sense this can seem really risky and a bit unnerving. But isn’t transformational change just as risky or maybe even more so?
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a strategy we could use to improve our chances of success? The good news is that there is a strategy I have in mind.
What is kaizen?
Kaizen is a Japanese concept that is often interpreted as “continuous improvement” in the Western world. One of my mentors, Sensei Chihiro Nakao, refers to kaizen as “change for the better”.
I like that interpretation much better. He goes on to to say that sometimes the change we need requires us to dismantle or destroy something before it gets better. Think about remodeling a bathroom or kitchen and you can see what he was talking about.
I believe that integrating kaizen into your daily routine will have such an amazing impact. You can avoid missed milestones and targets, and achieve the success you desire by looking at things a little differently.
This, of course, assumes that you already have a clear picture of where you want to go and have a keen sense of your authentic self and your areas of strength & weakness. Without these implementing a personal kaizen mindset and system for yourself may be challenging. So get clear on that first then try to implement what I am going to outline later on.
The best solutions are usually quite simple
You see, kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that can help us achieve our goals and targets by helping us move incrementally in the direction that we want to go. This isn’t about making monumental transformational change.
In my experience, that type of change doesn’t happen quickly nor does it work very well. Small incremental change in the direction you want to go is much easier for our brains to process and it is less likely to trigger our fight/flight response.
From a personal workflow strategy, incorporating change into our lives will make steady progress towards our goals. This is done best when you take small steps not waiting for a big transformational change to occur.
If you learn how to incorporate the power of kaizen into all aspects of your work, you’ll avoid missed milestones or targets.
The first step in building your personal kaizen practice
You can start building a personal kaizen practice by studying your calendar:
- Look at all of the tasks/projects/meetings/etc. that have found their way onto your calendar in the past 2 weeks and write them down
- Then determine if these were recurring (every day/week/month like clockwork) or adhoc (appearing at random)
- Use an affinity grouping diagram to group your tasks/activities into natural categories making sure not to lose sight of the recurring/adhoc designation you noted for individual items
- Look for the affinity group that has the highest number of tasks/activities that are adhoc and start asking the question “How can I reduce these occurrences or make more of these scheduled/recurring?”
By first looking at how to remove adhoc meetings/tasks/activities from our schedule, we set ourselves up better to complete the work we have to get done. Adhoc events can also be thought of as interruptions.
Based on some studies done by Gloria Mark on interruptions in the workplace, every time you are interrupted you lose about 20 minutes of focus from what you were working on prior. Add up all of the Adhoc events in your week and it will become easy to see why you aren’t meeting milestones and goals.
- Link to source on work interruption: https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/chi08-mark.pdf
This is just the first step in building a personal kaizen system, seems like a small step doesn’t it? But it can have a really big impact in your personal workflow. This in turn can make a giant improvement in the amount of work:life harmony you experience.
#alwaysimproving #kaizen #continuousimprovement #personalkaizen #incrementalimprovement #worklifeharmony