Kaizen – Little Changes, Big Returns

“Big doors swing on little hinges” –  W. Clement Stone


The concept of Kaizen has had its share of attention in recent years.  If you read anything in the self-development and productivity spaces, you no doubt already have an awareness of it.  Or perhaps you have noticed more and more books, articles and podcasts referencing Kaizen.  If the concept is new to you, it is worthy of some attention and exploration.


The Japanese word kaizen simply means “change for better”.  In a business setting, where the principle has gained huge traction, a ‘continuous improvement’ element is often added.


Toyota is particularly well known for Kaizen, where some staff are literally expected to stop a moving production line in case of noticing a defect and offer up a suggested improvement to resolve the issue.  This can initiate a ‘kaizen’ – a change for the better. The cycle of kaizen activity in this context is often defined as:

Plan → Do → Check → Act


Small Change, Large Improvements

Kaizen’s underlying principle is tied to improving what we do and how we do.  The route to this improvement can be gradual, patient and realistic – measured even.  It doesn’t have to be Big Bang.  It’s not always overnight.


Like a sculptor starting a new piece of work, we can chip away patiently.  We can smooth away the rough edges.  Uncover.  We can remove the unnecessary, little by little.  We don’t obsess over getting to an end point, we just focus on looking for opportunities to improve, often in some small way.


These small changes add up.  They have a compound effect over time.  Patience and consistency can often trump brute force.  The fable of the tortoise and the hare offers a perfect analogy.  Rush doesn’t always beat patient.  It’s the progress that matters, not always how fast we get there.


We can all apply a little of the Kaizen mindset to our own lives.  Seeking out opportunities to improve what we do and how we do it.  Embracing the power of small, gradual change.


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