Patience, doing things step by step, a long-term strategy. That’s enough to briefly describe the core of Japanese Kaizen philosophy which is so important in business but also in everyday life. As a businesswoman and as a woman I’m still learning its lessons to believe more in myself. What characterizes Kaizen and what are the main assumptions of this philosophy?

Kaizen (not only) in business

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning change for the better. If we talk about it in a business context, it means a constant improvement of various processes and aspects of the business (management, production, etc.). When it comes to product development, the Kaizen method helps reduce time and costs and improve quality. Simply put, Kaizen means a slow, yet consistent and lasting change in the functioning of the enterprise. Granted that this philosophy can be successful in business, we can assume that it will work well also in our everyday lives. Yet, the Kaizen method is a (very) small steps method. As it turns out, lasting changes are not brought by revolutionary actions, but by consistent changes that come naturally – so that we don’t feel them at all. One can even say that the changes are not small, but even microscopic.

My favorite Kaizen rules

By principle, there are ten Kaizen rules. You can use them all, you can also limit yourself to a few that bring the most benefit and work best for you. I have my favorites, which have inspired me for a long time and to which I gladly come back as soon as things start to get overly complicated. Let’s get to know them.

Conflicts create opportunities.

It may be hard to believe, but discomfort can become our real compass and show us the right way. It’s worth looking at what does not suit us, what irritates us and change it. Gently, without pressure and rush. After some time, we will realize that where we saw the problem, we find potential and motivation.

Ask “why?” five times.

Although this method may seem strange, it brings remarkable results. We rarely ask ourselves the right questions, and yet they can save us and help us calm our thoughts in the face of overwhelming chaos. We often don’t know what subconscious factors stand behind our choices and decisions. If they don’t bring effects, it’s worth stopping and thinking. A few accurate questions can help us find the answer.

Get ideas from everybody.

This principle mainly applies to the use of Kaizen in business. The idea is to take into account the opinion of everyone who participates in the life of the company. Each of the employees can come up with a good idea, which in turn will help improve desired processes. When it comes to everyday life, following this principle, it’s worth asking your loved ones for their opinion. You’ll be surprised how often when looking for a solution, you can find it in the hints of your husband, friend, parents and even people you have just met. I understand this principle in one more way: find those who inspire you and take advantage of these inspirations. 

Don’t make excuses that something is impossible.

There is a theory that we either have excuses or effects. I think that a longer comment is quite unnecessary here.

Reject the status quo.

Start by looking at your beliefs – especially about yourself. Then think about whether they are not guiding your life by accident. Perhaps someone has once said that you are worse, poorer, weaker. Are you sure you don’t believe it anymore and that these words have lost their power? By following the above principle, shed the burden of these thoughts. Even if such statements were true, your present self-consciousness will help you change the status quo – it won’t be a problem but a challenge.

Don’t wait for the perfect solution, choose a simple solution.

We often don’t take action because we think that it’s not a good time, we are not in the best shape, we don’t have the perfect equipment, etc. The examples can be multiplied indefinitely. Kaizen proposes to focus on real action instead of perfection. This idea is perfectly illustrated by the following words of Theodore Roosevelt:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Self-improvement is a continual process.

This is the last of the Kaizen principles, which is also the quintessence of all philosophy. Improvement can and should last. It’s not something that has its end and it’s not something that concerns only one aspect of our everyday life. Improving life in the meaning of Kaizen means exercising patience and perseverance, giving spectacular results after some time. In the end, I would like to recommend a book by Robert Maurer, which will help everyone start the adventure with this amazing philosophy: “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.” Kaizen is such an outlook that once known, remains with us forever.