Monday, February 19, 2018

Kaizen for Personal Goals

In Japanese, “Kaizen” means good change. It’s a term used by companies that practice Lean Six Sigma to ensure best practices, operational excellence and waste and defects reduction.

Question is, can it work for an individual? 

At the end of each year, you sit with pen in hand and jot down your New Year's resolution.  One popular goal is to lose 30 pounds and five inches around the waist before Spring Break.  Your sincere intent, after a real bad winter, is to get ready for boot camp workouts and celery sticks for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

Your  "you gotta do what's you gotta do" plan then ends up in the garbage at the end of first week since sustaining a 100 percent "do or die" schedule is neither reasonable nor fair to your out-of-shaped body.

Perhaps taking small baby steps is a better option?

Dr. Robert Maurer’s  book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, provides an option that makes sense and doesn't take tremendous sacrifice.

In his book, he tells of a story of a young mother who was overweight, stressed, and depressed. She said her physician placed her on a 1,500 calorie diet and a daily routine that consisted of aerobics exercise equal to two miles of jogging.

Dr. Maurer suggested an alternative.  Instead of drastically reducing calories, start by taking one less bite from each meal.  As a replacement to running two miles a day, start by walking to the mail box and back.  Encouraged, she followed Dr. Maurer’s suggestion and, through an specific, measurable, achievable, measurable, reasonable, and timely plan, she not only dropped her weight but significantly reduced her stress levels and pulled herself out of depression.

Kaizen is part of a culture that saves businesses time, money, and energy while increasing productivity and employee morale.

For individuals, the value comes from accomplishing goals. Sometimes, it takes longer, but it's better than defeat.

When I worked in the oil fields, one of my jobs was to go out and collect kaizen ideas. They ranged from “just do it” to “kaizen blitzes” to full-blown Kaizen DMAIC ideas.

These ideas were collected on pre-printed forms that included the waste it addressed such as:  transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over processing, and defects (“TIMWOOD”). I advised them to be aware of his presence as he, TIMWOOD, caused the drain in company resources. (See  TIMWOOD VIDEO ).

It was systematic and manageable.  Above all, it followed a routine that discouraged variations and variables.  With variations and variables, outcomes are less predictable and successful.

Segue to your own needs and, face it, no one enjoys sacrificing to win battles.  If there's an easier way, then by all means, take it.

So if your goal is to write a book, you don't have to take two weeks off from work to hide in a cheap motel living off zingers and Monster drinks.  Possible, however, is to devote a half an hour of your day to write a half a page or so.  Within a year's time, you'll have about 300 pages done!

So, if your goal is to learn Tai Chi, you don't have to fly to China.  Instead, you can learn from books, DVD's, references from the Internet and classes from local schools several miles from your home.

Kaizen again means good change without sacrificing a kidney.
Courtesy of

But it does set the tone for success that has benefited many companies.

From an individual's point of view, it could mean earning the satisfaction of success instead of failure.