Life Excellence Newsletter Edition of 5/9/2001
Kaizen: 10 Steps to Continuous Improvement
How to apply the concept of "kaizen" in your life.
Table of Contents:
Article: KAIZEN: 10 STEPS TO CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
1. Baby Steps
In 1985, Mr. Masaaki Imai, with his book "KAIZEN, the Key to
Japan's Competitive Success", was the first person to introduce the
concept of kaizen outside Japan. Since then, kaizen has become an
extremely well known and widely used philosophy in the corporate
arena. Although widely applied in organizations throughout the
world, we can also apply the concepts of kaizen in our personal
lives. Indeed, the concept of continuous improvement is the essence
of personal development.
2. Feature Article: KAIZEN: 10 STEPS TO CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
Kaizen means gradual and orderly, continuous improvement. In his
book, Mr. Imai writes "Kaizen means improvement. Moreover, kaizen
means continuous improvement in personal life, home life, social life,
and working life."
Mr. Imai offers 10 basic tips necessary to begin the journey of kaizen
1. Discard conventional fixed ideas.
The very idea of kaizen is unconventional. And the truth is,
most people do not practice continuous improvement in any area of
their lives, let alone all areas. About ninety-five percent of the people
in this world have absolutely no interest in taking action to improve
Conventional, fixed ideas would suggest that it is not necessary
to continue learning throughout our lives. In the New Economy,
however, the stakes are higher than ever. Those who continue to think
that their formal education will take care of them for the rest of their
lives are in for a rude awakening.
2. Think of how to do it, not why it cannot be done.
The pessimist will create all kinds of reasons that something can't
be done. The optimistic, forward thinker, on the other hand, knows
that "if the why is strong enough, the how will come."
Focus on the outcome. Then, come up with all the ways that the
outcome could possibly be accomplished.
3. Do not make excuses. Start by questioning current practices.
Making excuses for not doing something is easy.
Again, focus on the outcome. Then, take action. There is no excuse
for not trying something.
When I was in calculus class, we frequently were "stumped" by
problems presented on the board. "Try something!" Mr. Allington
used to demand. "Even if it's wrong, just try something." I'll
never forget Mr. Allington's advice, and it has helped me to get past
the "stuck stage" many times.
4. Do not seek perfection. Do it right away even if for only 50%
of the target.
If we all waited for perfection, we'd still be reading by candlelight
and riding horses to work. Once you get to a certain point (whether
it's 50% or 80%, or another number that makes sense), then run with
it. In other words, take action. Then, adjust as you go along.
5. Correct it right away, if you make a mistake.
Stuff happens. Accept it, and adjust accordingly. If you've absorbed
and accepted #4, then you're almost anticipating the necessity
of corrections. Acknowledge that the mistake happened, especially
when it affects other people, then correct it.
When an airplane is in flight, it is rarely exactly "on target". Most
often, it's a little off course on this direction, or slightly off in that
direction. But the pilot (or auto-pilot) constantly adjusts, and the
plane ends up at its destination. The same is true of personal
6. Do not just spend money for kaizen, use your wisdom.
It is not enough to simply buy a tape set to learn skills, or to merely
attend a workshop or seminar. These are wonderful (and essential,
in my opinion) first steps, but action is key. Learn, yes. But
then take action based on what you have learned.
7. Wisdom is brought out when faced with hardship.
Challenges are usually undesirable, but they can be tremendous
learning opportunities. Obstacles will present themselves, and you
will be a better person for having done what it took to overcome them.
8. Ask "Why?" five times and seek root causes.
The question "why?" is extremely powerful. As stated in #2, if a
person has a strong enough "why", he or she can accomplish
anything. The question "why?" can serve to either strengthen our
conviction about something, or help us to discover that it really
wasn't as important as we thought it was. At a minimum, it helps us
to get to the root of the issue.
Each time you ask "why?", you reveal a new layer. You go deeper,
and deeper. Then, after four or five answers, you'll get to the real
one. Try it!
9. Seek the wisdom of ten people rather than the knowledge
Much has been written about the power of group thinking. Whether
it involves seeking one or two other people's opinions, holding a
meeting with others, or more formal brainstorming or mastermind
groups, there is power in numbers.
If you want to find out how to be successful at something, ask
someone who has already done it. Better yet, gather several people
who have already done it. With libraries, the internet, and other
resources available today, we have more opportunities than ever to
gather the wisdom of others.
10. Kaizen ideas are infinite.
Kaizen is a process of learning and growing, steadily and continually.
There are always ways to "tweak" elements of your life in order to
improve them. It has been said that life is a journey, not a destination.
And practicing the philosophy of continuous improvement, of kaizen,
will help you to make the most of that journey!
If you have been successful in applying kaizen, please share your
story with us! And if you have additional ideas related to this topic
(or any other), please email me.
I'd love to hear from you!
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read
and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make
you a fortune.
It doesn't matter where you're coming from; all that matters is where
you are going.
There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of
improving and that's your own self.
The noblest search is the search for excellence.
Lyndon B. Johnson
4. Recommended Resources: Achievement
Think and Grow Rich
by Napolean Hill
This is one of the classics of personal development literature,
and is a "must read" if you are serious about achieving your
To order tape set, click
To order book, click
Awaken the Giant Within
by Anthony Robbins
The creator of acclaimed personal achievement programs and
the author of the best-selling Unlimited Power reveals the
proven steps to self-mastery. Robbins shares the secrets of his
exclusive "Date with Destiny" seminars, describing how
unconscious beliefs control our behavior and how we can make
immediate changes to accomplish our goals.
To order book, click
The Power of Focus
by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt
This book provides a practical guide for achieving desired results
in the key areas of your life. The action steps at the end of each
chapter make it easy to formulate your plan and then implement
it immediately in your life.
To order book, click
by Brian Tracy
A renowned motivational expert presents his powerful and
pragmatic lessons to help readers reach peak performance,
personally and professionally. Tracy's straightforward advice
is accompanied by easy-to-do exercises and enhanced with
inspiring stories of successful, highly motivated achievers in
To order book, click
The Psychology of Achievement
by Brian Tracy
This remarkable program reveals strategies to elevate your
income, put your career on the fast track and accomplish more
than you ever dreamed possible.
To order tape set, click here
Broccoli is the epitome of green, healthy eating-a true vitamin
and mineral super food. Here are 5 reasons to make this vegetable
a regular part of your diet:
1. Broccoli provides significant amounts of vitamins A, C and K,
as well as folate, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
2. This vegetable is an excellent source of dietary fiber, and is
naturally low in calories, fat and sodium.
3. It helps fight disease with an abundance of antioxidants,
phytochecmicals and flavenoids. For example, a serving of broccoli
has about a milligram of beta-carotene, as well as a significant
amount of lutein, another carotenoid antioxidant. Carotenoids have
been found to boost the immune system, and may also fight cancer.
Other substances in broccoli also have powerful cancer-fighting effects.
4. Broccoli supplies one-third the recommended daily amount of
folic acid, which helps lower the levels of homocysteine, a dangerous
substance that has been implicated in heart disease and strokes.
5. It tastes great!
Okay, some of you might debate the fifth point. But if you like (or
can at least tolerate) broccoli, then load up on it. Your body will
6. Final Thoughts
FIVE MORE MINUTES
While at the park one day, a woman sat down next to a man on a
bench near a playground. "That's my son over there," she said,
pointing to a little boy in a red sweater who was gliding down
"He's a fine looking boy," the man said. "That's my son on the
swing in the blue sweater." Then, looking at his watch, he
called to his son. "What do you say we go, Todd?"
Todd pleaded, "Just five more minutes, Dad. Please? Just five
more minutes." The man nodded and Todd continued to swing to
his heart's content.
Minutes passed and the father stood and called again to his son.
"Time to go now?" Again Todd pleaded, "Five more minutes, Dad.
Just five more minutes."
The man smiled and said, "O.K."
"My, you certainly are a patient father," the woman responded.
The man smiled and then said, "My older son Tommy was killed by
a drunk driver last year while he was riding his bike near here.
I never spent much time with Tommy and now I'd give anything for
just five more minutes with him. I've vowed not to make the same
mistake with Todd. He thinks he has five more minutes to swing.
The truth is, I get five more minutes to watch him play."
Life is all about making priorities. What are your priorities?
Thank you for reading the LifeExcellence Newsletter.
Strive to IMPROVE yourself this week!
- Brian Bartes
Are you ready to take action toward the achievement of your
goals? What if you had someone to support, motivate, challenge
and encourage you as you play at a new level?
Call our office at 734-254-9970, or e-mail us at
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