Personal Kaizen?
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Most of us in manufacturing have heard of Kaizen events.  Kaizen is Chinese and Japanese for “continuous improvement.” In manufacturing, Kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions, processes, and involve all employees from the CEO to entry level employees. Kaizen is critical for the success of any organization. But what about personally? Is there a place for it in our personal life?

Every day our lives get cluttered just like our factories and businesses. Just like an old hard drive, the personal processes and procedures that we do every day begin to mutate and get slowed down. The workspace of our life begins to get cluttered just like our factories. The busier we get, the more junk we accumulate. We find small storage areas to place things that we are certain we will need some day. We get to a point where the things of our lives have gained control over the functionality of our lives. It is time for us to set sail on the journey of Personal Kaizen.

When I was managing factories, the firsts step we took in continuous improvement was to start with 5S, the first step of which is Sort. In our personal life, we need to begin much the same by sorting through the clutter and eliminating the things that are not critical or useful for the tasks at hand. Please allow me to give you an example. I love working with wood and restoring old wooden boats. In my workshop, I have countless small pieces of wood that I have saved for that one small project, the one that never comes. Truthfully, it is time to use it for kindling in the wood stove. But where do we start? There are so many items, so much clutter and so many activities that we have convinced ourselves are critical.

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor writes, “when stress and workloads seem to mount faster than our ability to keep up, feelings of control are often the first to go, especially when we try to tackle too much at once.” According to Achor, we need to break things up into smaller pieces. As we conquer one piece at a time, we build momentum and feelings of control return.

Where in your life can you use a Kaizen event? Is there clutter that has slowed you down? Is there waste that needs to be eliminated? Are you working on the right things? As John Maxwell often says, “Sometimes we need to say no to the good to make time for the best.”

Where will you begin your personal continuous improvement journey?