The word Kaizen comes from the Japanese terms “Kai” meaning changes, and “Zen”, which alludes to getting better.
This is why the union of the mentioned terms, could be described as the process of continuous improvement.
The Kaizen philosophy states that if you can do something, you are also capable of doing it better. In other words, it promotes constant improvement. You may now be wondering, where these ideas came from and the answer is interesting. Kaizen was born due to Japan’s need of recovering from the economic chaos that arose during the Second World War.
Two main elements are considered essential when following the Kaizen philosophy, these are “compromise” and “discipline”. Although many companies have used Kaizen to reduce waste and streamline processes, the most recognized Kaizen company is Toyota which successfully implements this philosophy for the continuous improvement of its technology, production, and customer service.
The Kaizen system is fundamentally grounded on the 5s, which come from secure (classification), seiton (organization), seiso (cleaning), seiketsu (standardization), and, shitsuke (self-discipline). One of the advantages of the Kaizen method is that it involves a gradual process, everyone can do it at their own pace and without having to make all changes at once. Let’s go further into the 5s, as a means to comprehend the main tools that are needed when applying Kaizen to our daily lives:
1. Seiri (classification): there is a space for everything. We must not get lost in details that are irrelevant to the objective we wish to reach or the assignment that we want to accomplish. Classifying according to urgency and priority is essential.
2. Seiton (organization): Organization is a key element to bare in mind before doing any activity. For instance, having our computers full of open windows and files is not helpful for our objectives. Always make time for organizing!
3. Seiso (cleaning): The concept of seiso goes beyond maintaining a clean desk. If you are one of the lucky ones that still do home-office, you should know by now, that working in an unclean space can be considered a challenge.
4. Seiketsu (standardization): this term is not only vital for work processes but any activity, including routines of personal hygiene. We should aim for being organized in every activity.
5. Shitsuke (self-discipline): we must bare in mind that practicing the first four points, is not enough, if we fail to make a habit out of them. Self-discipline is very important to embrace all of these points and to make them part of our everyday lives.
While Kaizen has been most widely known as a management philosophy, it is much more than that. It can be applied to our daily lives by focusing on striving for constant improvement. It doesn’t require making immediate and radical changes in our routine. Incremental modifications in our habits are more than enough to follow this method! So why not start? Kaizen will be a great asset for developing standards for your life, building self-discipline, and effectively organizing your time and money!