The 5-Minute Guide to the Kaizen Continuous Improvement Approach
Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “improvement.” While this is the literal translation, Kaizen actually contains a lot more meaning when used in several other contexts. Kaizen continuous improvement often is a quick approach to successful change.
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As a concept, Kaizen was popularized by the manufacturing industry. Here, the focus was on looking at how quick minimal changes in the assembly line could result in massive improvements in efficiency and output.
“Kaizen (改善) comes from two Japanese words: Kai (improvement) and Zen (good), which translates to “continuous improvement”.What is Continuous Improvement?
Imagine, for example, that you found a way to speed up a machine that placed screws by 2%. It might not sound like much, but when you are inserting hundreds of thousands of screws daily, it adds up to a huge difference!
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This concept of Kaizen continuous improvement quickly became popular amongst other circles. In particular, it found popularity with the business crowd, and with self-improvement gurus. Quick Kaizen continuous improvement is seeing terrific success in self-improvement.
Quick Kaizen Continuous Improvement
The claim? That by changing just a few tiny things in your life, you could add up to massive change. Countless articles claim that the best way to get into shape is with “micro workouts.” By exercising just five minutes a day can form new habits.
Only this was actually missing the point somewhat. Quick and continuous Kaizen improvements entail more than micro habits.
The point of Kaizen isn’t just to change little things and see the cumulative effect. It’s about looking at processes and flows and finding ways to remove waste and improve efficiency. Do you see how it is a double edge sword for continuous improvement?
While there is some truth in the notion that starting an ambitious exercise program is a mistake. And, that doing something smaller can often lead to better results, that’s only part of the story. Understanding what Kaizen truly means allows you to take even more benefit from it. Indeed, and to enact transformative change in your life.
Kaizen Continuous Improvement – An Example: Fitness
If you want to apply the theory of Kaizen to your workouts then, what might that look like? Quick Kaizen to the rescue!
The mistake a lot of people make is to try and add considerable training on top of their already-packed schedules. This is where they go wrong.
Working out four days a week might not seem like much, but if you think that’s hours of training. In addition, hours out of your routine when you consider travel to and from the gym/getting showered, etc. Then there’s washing your gym kit and getting it ready the next day.
This is a conservative estimate.
That’s nearly a whole working day of exercise you want to start doing! And currently, you do nothing!
Thinking Small Quick Kaizen Style
This is one of the obstacles that stop us from getting into shape – the simple fact that we come home from work or otherwise reach the end of the day we are drained. In terms of energy, all we want to do is spend some time with our old friend “Netflix and a glass of wine.”
The problem is that your routine is already packed and that you don’t really have time or energy left to do anything else. So what do you do? Kaizen’s continuous improvement will help.
One trick is to snap out of this and overcome that energy drain, so how do you do that? Another method is to challenge yourself to do just “something” that day, even if it’s a tiny bit of exercise. For instance, you might just try and do a quick set of ten push-ups.
This is helpful because it will be useful for you to do something. Always do something instead of nothing. Moreover, it will have a significant impact on your body and help get your blood pumping. But more to the point after you’ve done ten push-ups, you’ll quickly realize that you feel more awake and energetic! Indeed, you may want to capitalize on those initial ten. As a result, you may end up doing an entire workout.
Quick Kaizen Approach
Here’s the rule then: make sure that every day you do two sets of any exercise. So, your aim is still to do more and to do your training program. But if you find yourself in the above situation and feeling too tired and short on time to start, you should make this effort to do just say 3 sets of 10 push-ups, or 20 crunches.
This is the Kaizen approach as it is most often packaged: doing something small to get significant results. Daily you end up with continuous improvements – Kaizen at its best!
Without a doubt, something is always better than nothing. And if you do just this small amount, you will find yourself improving at least slightly, or at least more than you would without doing it. More importantly though, as soon as you’ve done those 10 push-ups, you might find yourself throwing yourself into the rest of the workout! Because you’ll have found it’s not really that bad, and you’ll have gotten your blood pumping thus giving yourself more energy and more power to train.
No matter how tired you are or how busy you are, there’s no excuse not to accomplish five minutes of training. This is where that Kaizen continuous improvement begins kicking in. So you can do this challenge. It’s up to you if you make this a rule in your life, but if you don’t, you have only yourself to blame for not making progress!
Time and Effort Equals Kaizen Continuous Improvement
One of the things that prevent many people from going to the gym is simply the time and effort it takes to start. The problem here is that you have to drive to the gym. Already taking up a significant amount of time, they have to face the cold outdoors, they have to shower afterward… it all takes a lot more time and energy than just the hour it takes to work out. Not exactly quick Kaizen.
Mistake number one: it doesn’t take an hour to work out! If you’re working out for an hour, then you’re probably wasting a lot of time in the gym, and it may be time to stop. Using methods to ensure that your workouts are quick and intense is the best way to improve the quality of your workout and to make it much less of a time investment. You should be in and out in less than forty minutes in most cases, and your heart rate should never really drop.
Process Fixes for Exercise & Continuous Improvements will be Yours!
That is where a lot of books and articles on Kaizen for exercise would stop. But again, that’s missing the most critical aspects of the concept.
Kaizen in manufacturing is about looking at the manufacturing process and finding sticking points – finding waste – where things can be improved. And this is what you need to do with your training.
In the past, you’ve struggled to stick to a training program. That should tell you that your current approach to training is somehow inefficient. Let’s try the quick Kaizen style.
Indeed, the next plan then is to make sure that you make working out as easy to do as possible. And as quick as possible. If you can make a home gym, then that’s fantastic! Indeed, you should have a home gym for those times when making it to the gym is just too much. After all, your home gym needs is a bit of floor space and maybe a pull-up bar (don’t underestimate the power of bodyweight training).
For hitting the gym, it’s essential to create a system. Make going to the gym as easy as you can, choose one near you or near your work, and one that has a shower, so you can get ready while you’re there.
Systems for Kaizen Continuous Improvement
Next, create a “system” or a routine that will make all this as easy as possible. You could go to the gym straight after work and shower there to save time at home. Every day, swap the towel in your gym bag and throw in a change of clothes so that you don’t have to do that the next day. Have a separate shampoo, etc. in the bag so that you never have to remember to pack it.
So, after work, you’d hit the gym and shower, meaning you can get home only an hour later but having saved time in your evening routine and now able to relax fully. Indeed, of you. make this a habit, it will not get in the way of anything else.
The Rest of the Quick Kaizen Lifestyle
Similarly, think about creating a system for the kitchen and dish clean-up. Work on making the environment as conducive as possible. Create enough draining space that an entire lot of washing up can be done in one go without drying. By drastically limiting the amount of crockery you use, and by ensuring to do it straight away after eating (and once again – excuses just don’t cut it).
You might be thinking I’ve gone mad at this point. How can fixing your kitchen routine possibly help you to work out? But here’s the thing: if you spend less time cleaning up, you have more time and energy to do the things you want. Which in this case means exercising?
To look at this in quick Kaizen terms, we are dealing with waste, and making our lifestyles more efficient. And by doing this, we’re able to fit in more working out or whatever it is our hearts are desiring.
Likewise, you might look at what time you’re waking up. You could get more time in your day if you didn’t keep hitting snooze. And maybe if you negotiate working from home once a week? What if you were to get some kind of chore done on the train on your commute back.
Small changes, more time, more energy
Small changes like these can give you not only more time, but more energy. You’ve made your lifestyle more efficient in order to gain the 6 hours of exercise that you want to commit to. This approach turns the usual methods of starting exercise completely on their head – and to impressive effect.
Fixing Energy for Continuous Improvement
Failing this another thing you can do is simply to try taking a big breath in, standing up, and jumping up and down a bit. This will once again get the blood flowing and you’ll feel instantly more relaxed. You should smile at this point too (as Charlie Chaplin would say) because “facial feedback” will ensure that this improves your mood. And often you’ll find that it’s partly your mood that’s holding you back.
This works because you’re addressing your lack of energy and refueling. It’s a small thing, that can have big consequences.
Another psychological technique you can use here is called ‘priming’ which means creating the right mood for whatever it is you want to be doing. Try watching an action film (I recommend GI Jane) and you’ll suddenly feel raring to go and to hit the gym hard in the face.
More Kaizen Continuous Improvements
Of course, there are also physical things that affect your energy too, so make sure you remember that you are managing your energy levels and trying to save some for when you do your workout. Make sure you start your day with a healthy meal of complex carbs which will gradually release energy throughout the day, strive to get lots of sleep which is also high quality, and make sure that you don’t allow yourself to overdo stress.
Again, this is quick Kaizen done properly: you are looking at every aspect of your routine and your lifestyle, in order to see areas that can be improved to get the results you want to see.
Applying Kazien Principles to Other Areas
Now you understand what Kaizen is really all about, you can begin thinking of ways to apply it in other areas of your life.
For example, how might you improve your productivity? By looking at every step of your workflow and seeing where any time or energy is being wasted.
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You can apply this to relationships, to your health, to your finances, and much more. It’s time to stop making bold, unrealistic assertions – and to start taking a more Kaizen approach for continuous improvement!