What in the world is Kaizen?

Recently I had a friend tell me, unsolicited, that I needed to consider a complete makeover…hair, dress, make-up, and an overall updating of my appearance, given that I was growing older. After the initial hurt feelings, I began to wonder if she was not only right, it also led me to consider what other areas beyond just my appearance may need a complete overhaul as well.

Whew! Looking in the mirror is not always easy. Yet, one thing I sincerely believe is that in order for us to continue to learn, excel, ultimately succeed and grow into alignment, we have to take a hard look at what is working and what is not – whether this be in our personal lives or our professional endeavors.

Most successful individuals and businesses embody and remain committed to the principle represented by the Japanese word kaizen,which means “never ending improvement”.  This principle is typically used in reference to improvement of processes in business. Kaizen encourages us that even when things are going well, successful companies strive diligently and obsessively to improve themselves. The five primary components of kaizen include:

  • Teamwork
  • Personal discipline
  • Improved morale
  • Quality circles
  • Suggestions for improvement

I believe this principle can be applied not only to our companies and organizations, but also to ourselves, as individuals and leaders. Even when certain aspects of our lives, careers and businesses are thriving, this does not mean that everything is running on all cylinders. There is always room for improvement.

We can surround ourselves with support systems (teamwork) to help us whether this by our physical trainers for staying healthy and in shape, our teachers, and our friends. We can embrace a personal discipline and constitution for taking care of ourselves and growing in our respective fields. We can join Mastermind groups and surround ourselves with professionals who will challenge us and serve as our quality circle for our respective endeavors. And yes, we can remain open and receptive to suggestions for improvement.

Sure, to be perfectly honest, the feedback received was hard to hear; and yet, to not take it to heart and embrace it with the spirit in which it was intended does not serve me. As we know, alignment within ourselves and our organizations is a journey, not a finite destination. Thus, forward momentum is the ultimate call to action. The ongoing quest for continuous improvement, or kaizen, has served Japan well through their evolution. What do we have to lose? In what areas can you or your team improve? What is holding us back?

One last bit for those of you who have asked me about new summer reading suggestions, you may go to the Alignment Library for a diverse list of updated suggestions. And you my simply click on the book title and it will allow you to buy directly from Amazon. Enjoy!

4 responses to “What in the world is Kaizen?

  1. Wow Kristin!! I listen to friends and will try new things to see if they fit, but usually find myself going back to my original feelings on this subject. My appearance should be based on who I am inside… my authentic self. Who am I? How do I show this to the world? Is my appearance a true reflection of what is on the inside? These are the things which draw others to us and even make some admire us for our courage in showing the world who we are… I call this “living outloud.”
    Fads change and sometimes reflect who we are, however, there are seasons where nothing on the rack or in the magazines fit our insides. We just have to wait for the next season. This is much better than trying to “make it fit” and look back at pictures where we say “what was I thinking?”. Very similar to Cinderella’s wicked step-sister trying to make the shoe fit… she and the Prince would have been miserable ever after! Just my opinion, but it fits me.

  2. Thanks for your insight! There is always room for growth – and I agree 100% that we must always, always, be true to ourselves. That is the ‘true north’ in our lives and others’ perspectives are input (like road signs) for us to consider. Thank you again!

  3. (To Laura). . . on the other hand, others in both the business and personal world will judge you on your appearance–at least initially. Once you get to know people, appearance generally becomes less significant. It’s always a personal choice and there are times when I just don’t care. But in the business world, I’d rather start out with an advantage than a liability. Let me share and example. I have a good friend who runs an important division in the federal government. She and her staff must often travel internationally to speak on the medical findings and issues they work on. My friend had one staffer who was an excellent worker and quite capable of sharing some of the international duties. Unfortunately, this staffer gave little thought to her attire, and my friend knew that her appearance in other countries would make it hard for the audiences to take her words seriously. Because of Georgetown’s extraordinary Leadership coaching program Kristin and I took, my friend decided to ask me for help; how do you tell someone they need to dress better? We talked about approaching the conversation, not as a criticism of the staffer, but as an opportunity for her to enhance her career (and travel abroad!) That’s exactly what my friend did, and she also got another staffer to help her to shop for more professional clothes. As a result, the staffer is now doing many of the international conferences.

  4. Great example Trent and I agree! The level of professionalism needed for the setting must always be considered. However, once met, I enjoy a little “living outloud” flair. I like to think of it as assisting others with expanding their diversity threshold…as they will also expand mine.

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