Monday’s Meditation: On Kaizen

February 3, 2014

A couple of months ago, my sister was regaling me with her work chronicles, and she happened to mention the word Kaizen. It went something like,

“He said this, so we did that, and then this happened, and then we were like we have to do this because it’s Kaizen.” Except she’s far more articulate in real life.

And I was all, “Kai-who?” (I sound no better.)

I sort of forgot about the exchange or her explanation of the term until last week, when Kaizen flashed through my mind.

Just like that, Kaizen. Across the brain screen.

So I took to The Google and you know what happened next? Well, I fell in love is what.

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning change for the better (“kai” means “change” and “zen” means “good or better”) or “continuous improvement.”

Its transition from mere diction to philosophy occurred in the wake of World War II, when efforts were being made to restore Japan’s infrastructure. Dr. W Edwards Deming, an American statistician who taught Japanese business managers how to improve their skills, services, sales, and so on, is credited with bringing the term into the business realm. Masaaki Imai shared the concept of Kaizen with the world.

In his work, Kaizen: The Key To Japan’s Competitive Success, Imai defines Kaizen as “a means of continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. At the workplace, Kaizen means continuing improvement involving everyone—managers and workers alike. The Kaizen business strategy involves everyone in an organization working together to make improvements without large capital investments.”

Kaizen is as applicable in the personal realm as it is in a business setting, and at its core is the fundamental principle of innovation. It requires that we consistently be engaged in the process of evaluating the efficacy of our efforts, implementing measured and positive changes, and adopting those improvements as the new standards for operation.

As we move into February, and the cleaner, healthier, more well-read glow that was alit by the dawning of the new year may be beginning to flicker, remember that resolutions are not a once yearly occurrence. Kaizen would teach us that we must always be moving forward with continuous efforts at improvement. It is a practice, a way of life that sustains with each new month, new day, even moment by moment. As the world continually begins anew, so can we, too.

Use the division of a new calendar month to your advantage. It can be an opportunity to evaluate what you created in January, to make new goals, and so forth. Above all, let Kaizen, the philosophy of continuous and steady progress, be your guide.

Good month–





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