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Jul 6, 2011

Kaizen for Personal Development

In the pursuit of self improvement we can look at many different areas. An area I have been interested in for a few months has been business, particularly the practice of Kaizen.

Kaizen literally means "To become good through change". It comes from the Japanese words "Kai" meaning school and "Zen" meaning wisdom. It has been adapted throughout the world across many businesses and has been used for years. I remember when I worked as a production operator at Hughes Micro-electronics they used the Kanban Kaizen system.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen was created after World War 2 as a way of continuously improving the work place. Masaaki Imai is considered the father of Kaizen after releasing the book Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success. Kaizen is not a case of the management getting together once a month; it involves every employee in a company putting forwards suggestions for improvement. At Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, 60 to 70 suggestions per employee, per year are written down, shared and implemented.

I didn't really get it when I was working at Hughes as I was there for the money and for partying at the weekend. However having looked at it again it is an interesting concept.

Wikipedia has this to say about Kaizen:

"The goals of Kaizen include the elimination of waste (defined as "activities that add cost but do not add value"), just-in-time delivery, production load levelling of amount and types, standardized work, paced moving lines, right-sized equipment, etc. In this aspect it describes something very similar to the assembly line used in mass production. A closer definition of the Japanese usage of Kaizen is "to take it apart and put back together in a better way." What is taken apart is usually a process, system, product, or service.

Kaizen is a daily activity whose purpose goes beyond improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates hard work (both mental and physical), and teaches people how to do rapid experiments using the scientific method and how to learn to see and eliminate waste in business processes."

Kaizen for personal development

I am working with the idea of Kaizen for personal development. I believe it would be good for all areas of life. One of the principle ideas of Kaizen is to change the easiest things first.

Now that I have read about and absorbed the ideas of Kaizen I have started to introduce one area and implement an action plan every 2 weeks. The first one I have implemented is the wasted amount of time spent on the computer.

At the moment I spend 5 -7 hours on the computer per day. I spend around 3 hours working on my own blog and working on the one I manage. So it leaves me about 4 hours spent "surf without thinking" (SWT). It's a case of surfing and reading blogs on areas that interest me but for no other reason than for personal pleasure. I also work and

SWT together, so I might work for half and hour, SWT for half an hour, work another half hour, SWT for 1 hour etc.

So what I have done now is work first, get all the work thing out the way. That would include writing articles, submitting them to article sites, submitting to social bookmarking sites, promoting the blogs etc. I have found doing it this way I work for longer, so instead of working 3 hours I work for 4 hours. Then I spend two glorious hours SWT. What I have noticed so far is the SWT time has become more focused on work. The SWT time has been cut to two hours as well which saves me 1 hour per day to work on other areas of my life.

When I started wiring this article I began looking for other articles on other blogs mentioning Kaizen and I found a few great ones.

Jason Thomas over at has a great one and discusses how he has implemented into his life. has an interesting article written by Jon Minerich

Kaizen in your life

To implement the practice of Kaizen in your life, pick an area which you think might benefit from change. Look at the process closely and ask what changes could you make to make it better or quicker or have less wastage.

I have found you can implement it in every area of life, from doing the housework to spending more time with the children.

It is a slow process so I wouldn't go head long into this. I would look at one area at a time and build it up from there. The frequency at which you implement changes is obviously up to you however I would space it every few weeks or every month.