I first came across the idea of Kaizen when I was working as a professional organizer with chronically disorganized people. I picked up the book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Mauer (Workman Publishing Company, 2014) and was fascinated by how we can make big changes with little steps that circumvent the normal fear response in our brains.
But this process is not just about a mental exercise. It is an application and affirmation of what has always worked to bring about change: incremental and systematic continuous improvement.
This explanation from the beginning chapter of Mauer’s book describes the beginnings of the Kaizen concept:
“The course manual urged supervisors to ‘look for hundreds of small things you can improve. Don’t try to plan a whole new department layout – or go after a big installation of new equipment. There isn’t time for these major items. Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”
This course manual was provided by the US government to corporations throughout America after France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940. The Allies needed to quickly increase the quality and quantity of military equipment to prepare for war at the same time that qualified managers were being sent into the armed forces.
The process of continuous improvement did give the US an edge – BUT after the war, they returned to many of their old ways.
In contrast, the same process was brought to Japan to rebuild their manufacturing industries and became the basis for Japan’s productivity and technology boom. Japan named this process Kaizen, and it flowed back to the US in the 1980s.
Why am I bringing this history lesson up to you here now?
It is a reminder that for your business to be the best, most productive, and most successful organization it can be, it needs to rely on small, continuous steps towards improvement.
For me in my company today, that looks like going through an after-action review on a daily basis. I ask:
- What is working?
- What is not working?
- What process changes or additions will we implement going forward?
Are you asking these questions, too?
We’ll be asking them this week at Momentum Live: The CEO Experience. We’ll be using them to explore what is working in our businesses, to look at what is not working in our businesses, to figure out what obstacles are in our way, and to make a plan for the next 3-12 months.
In addition, I use these questions to create the Momentum Live event and its outcomes. My team has worksheets with these questions at the top, and we iterate through the event. Then at the end, we review and make additional adjustments for future events.
This year has been a little different in that we are already planning ahead for the next Momentum Live and the changes that are to come. One of the biggest changes is to give even more time for masterminding. I am truly looking forward to sharing with you what this will look like.
What I know is that this mastermind time is one of the most important aspects of Momentum Live. It is the time to connect with peers on a level playing field and sort out the challenges that your business is facing.
Masterminds allow you to learn from your peers’ experience and expertise – along with their own Kaizen process – in a way that’s direct, candid, and immediate.
Where else do you get this opportunity?
If you would like to be added to the list of people interested in attending the next Momentum Live: The CEO Experience September 28-30, 2022, click here. Then I encourage you to grab a piece of paper, set a timer for 10 minutes, and brainstorm all of the small changes you could make right now that would improve your business. The last step is to pick one of those changes to implement right now, today.
Kaizen is an application and affirmation of what has always worked to bring about change: incremental and systematic continuous improvement.
Have you joined us for a CEO Networking Meeting? No? Then sign up for a session. It’s time well spent exploring big ideas – all while expanding your network. Already a member of the Momentum CEO Network? Click here to login and register for the next meeting.
Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.