Kaizen: what is kaizen?

Kaizen philosophy presupposes continuous improvement of productivity. Learn how to apply it to your self-development from this article!


Welcome, my dear readers of “Motivational tips”!

Today we are going to travel to Japan in order to acquaint with their method of continuous self-development, called kaizen.

Japanese are quite an interesting nation with unique attitude towards life, work, children and family. I am sure that we can learn from them a lot.

For example, they can teach us how to avoid jumping from one job to another in search of the perfect vacancy (more money, less responsibilities), but to devote yourself to your job and become perfect in your sphere of occupation.

In fact, the essence of this philosophy consists in the abovementioned goal.

What is kaizen?

World War II had affected Japan very seriously: the economy and infrastructure of the country were destroyed; many people fell victim to war or were accused of being fascists’ allies. Japanese had to make a lot of efforts in order to fix all that.

The Land of Rising Sun wasn’t rich in any minerals which it could sell in order to close gaps in the budget. Thus, the heads of the country decided on the necessity of manufacturing of high-quality products which could be sold to other countries.

In order to improve economy as quickly as possible, the factories started to imply kaizen philosophy (continuous improvement of production processes on all levels).

The leaders of “Toyota” company were one of the first to realize the necessity of improvement of the production on all levels, involving every employee starting from the head of the company and ending with a janitor.

Kaizen consists of 5 main elements:

  1. Carefulness.
    Everything has to be done in very delicate and careful way in order to avoid making waste.
  2. Order.
    A person should keep both his/her life and work properly organized.
  3. Cleanness.
    The same goes with this point – your body, clothes, intentions and thoughts have to be clean.
  4. Standardization.
    You have to work out your own strategy which will help you to reach success.
  5. Discipline.
    You have to follow your daily routine and stick to your plans.

Kaizen philosophy became well-known all over the world when Masaaki Imai published a book about this philosophy in 1986. The book has gained popularity in business sphere, and since 1990 all outstanding companies have been using the method of productivity improvement, described by Japanese.

The main principles of kaizen

“In Japan you may work as a baker or a conductor on the train, but respect your profession and work to the fullest. You may find your meaning of life doing that. It doesn’t matter what your profession is. What really matters is your aiming at perfection”.
Boris Akunin

Actually, there are much more principles of kaizen philosophy. Many other authors followed the example of Masaaki Imai and wrote new books with detailed description of this method.

Besides, every author has his/her own opinion about the basis of kaizen.

Having systematized the material on this topic, I defined 10 basic principles of this philosophy.

  1. The main person in the company is the client.
    Every employee has to aim at satisfying all clients’ needs.
    The success of the company depends not only on the chief executive, chief accountant or other employees, but on the client in the first turn.
  2. Team work.
    The experience of Japanese businessmen proved that work goes faster when each employee is a good team worker.
    These teams should be created according to the professional qualities, length of service, etc.
  3. Constant necessity of making changes.
    Many companies stop developing when they reach the satisfactory level of success, and they don’t make changes in their production process anymore. Such decision is a very serious mistake.
    What they should do is to make slight changes, which will be still noticeable to their clients. In this way a company can show that it’s been constantly developing and improving.
  4. Explicit fight with problems.
    If company has some problems, they should be acknowledged, found and solved immediately.
  5. Establishment of friendly atmosphere.
    The heads of the company should prevent all scandals, aggressive competition and explicit division into winners and losers.
    Every employee has to feel comfortable at his/her workplace and hope to receive support when needed.
  6. Delegation of assignments.
    The head of the company doesn’t have to be responsible for everything. Every employee has to receive his/her own task and report on its performance.
  7. Personal experience exchange.
    Keep in mind that you have to share not only the results, but your methods of their achievement as well.
  8. Aiming at perfect result.
    You have to aim at achieving the best possible result, don’t cut yourself some slack or work in a hit-and-miss fashion.
  9. Constant self-development.
    Every employee has to improve his/her professional qualities, knowledge and skills.
  10. Strict self-discipline.
    You should stick to your own working schedule and develop the same attitude towards other people, avoiding the intrusion into their lives.

Where else you may use kaizen, apart from work?

At first kaizen was used only in manufacturing, but later psychologists decided that such wonderful method should also be applied to other spheres of life in order to help people who want to improve themselves somewhere apart from work.

As it turned out, there was no need to invent anything new, as there had already been created the basic principles of philosophy, they only have to be applied for self-development.

If you decide to follow the rules of kaizen, you should

  1. Work out your to-do list for every day and don’t finish working until every point is fulfilled.
  2. Aim at development, improvement, self-perfection and train your brain.
  3. Work out your schedule and stick to it every single day.
  4. Take care of your appearance and keep both your home and working place clean and organized.
  5. Keep your thoughts clean: get rid of envy, anger, jealousy and never gossip about other people.
    Avoid contacting with everything that can destroy your inner world.
  6. Work to the fullest, even if you are simply cooking dinner. Don’t work half-heartedly!
  7. Love your life and enjoy every day of it!

Kaizen philosophy is actually very easy to follow. Besides, it effectiveness was proved by Japanese back in the middle of the XX century.

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