Go slow to go fast! Totally contradictory, but this is what “The Spirit of Kaizen” is in a nutshell. Radical changes will leave you stuck and afraid of the changes you want to implement. Slow and small steps toward the changes you want, will make you gain traction and will put you on the path to creating new habits and consequently making the improvements you want.
Kaizen states that radical changes will set off the brain’s fear response. Changing a routine when it feels like you are being forced to do, causes fear, as the author says: “it causes lack of creativity”. On the other hand, a small change even if it seems insignificant can bypass your brain’s fear alarm allowing creativity to flow and allowing changes to take place.
When talking about the Kaizen method of cutting costs, the author points out that cost control is a “state of mind”. Small steps towards cost-cutting add up to big savings. U$1 per day in one year is U$365 saved. I see this as not only beneficial from a saving standpoint but also can be used in my own business as a selling strategy. For example, If I bid on a project cheaper than a competitor, I will tell the customer that instead of cutting corners I control and reduce unnecessary costs, and do not have the massive overhead like the “bigger” guys. I do not compromise quality or hide inefficiency making the customer pay for higher costs. My price is better not because of desperation, but because I am personally involved in the operation and alert for any wasted resources/material.
The Kaizen method for quality control is simple: “look for and address mistakes while they are still small”. It is a tendency for every human being to avoid sharing mistakes, especially in the corporative world. No one wants to recognize their failures. Avoiding talking or addressing mistakes or problems can make them bigger and way harder to deal with. I love what the author says about perfection: “No one can be perfect, but everyone can be TRANSPARENT!”. This applies to every aspect of life. If I forget everything else in this book, this is the one thing I want to always remember and apply. I will use it in my personal life, whenever my kids make mistakes and try to hide them. I will use it when I am selling a roof and I will tell my customer that no roofing company is perfect, but what sets us apart is that we are transparent. Trying to be perfect won’t make you avoid mistakes, instead, it will make you hide them.
The author states that creativity is the attention to life’s insignificant moments that can lead to changes. These moments can be found in the most unpleasant situations such as embarrassment, when time is wasted, silly problems that you may disregard, and “small” mistakes. Kaizen tells us that we need to pay attention to mistakes, learn from them, admit the mistake, and fix it. Find the root of the problem and not make the same mistakes again.
Small steps towards improvement are the key to success. It is amazing how much our health is linked to our performance in every aspect of our lives. The concept I see is that if you can manage to take care of your health, most likely you can take care of other things and other professional matters. The decision to eat a fatty burger “just today” or to NOT eat the burger today, over the course of years will result in a drastic difference in health. It is easy to think “just today” but add all those days or times and you will regret not being more disciplined. Think ahead, what is the smallest step I can take towards improvement today?
A friend once reminded me that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. It is very human to look at life, or a goal, or anything that needs to be accomplished and shrink in front of the challenge. Taking small actionable steps toward that goal will help you get there. This is one of the reasons I really loved this book. It is practical and makes you move into action. Procrastination will kill your dreams and feed into your fear. Action, as the book describes, will dispel fear, make you feel empowered, and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
We must be grateful and cultivate a grateful heart. Ask yourself: What am I grateful for right now? Just ask the question and allow your brain to provide the answer when needed. Be tough on yourself, but also be nice to yourself. You are your best friend, and you need to take care of yourself like no one can or will do for you.
We always have a choice. When a choice needs to be made, allow your brain to give you the answer you need asking yourself: What do I want? When confronted with the choice to talk negatively to yourself, choose to speak positively. Successful people speak to themselves more encouragingly. Support yourself and others around you.