The Kaizen Method to Improve One Step at a Time

02 September, 2020
The most interesting fact about the Kaizen method is that it encourages people to set goals that are so small that it's practically impossible to fail. It's a very efficient method that helped Japan become the superpower that it is today.

The Kaizen method is an improvement model that was first applied in the business world. However, it’s so effective that it was slowly adopted in other fields. Nowadays, it can be applied in basically every other aspect of life. This method was created in Japan in the frame of quality control.

One way or another, the Kaizen method stems from TaoismThe word “kaizen” means “change for the better”. It’s not about becoming better as an individual but as a team. It was created from an altruist perspective and aims to build a better world.

For the Kaizen method, improvement isn’t a specific goal but instead an ongoing process and a lifestyle. Many believe that this method turned Japan into a superpower after the devastation World War II left behind. Although it’s incredibly useful in business processes, we’re going to focus on its application on a more personal level.

“Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”

-John Wooden-

The Kaizen method for continuous improvement

Start by believing that if you improve 1% of your life every day, you’ll reach an incredible transformation in the medium to long-term. Kaizen is based on the idea that it’s smarter to make small but ongoing improvements instead of setting big goals that you never accomplish precisely because of how big and difficult they are.

This method is very efficient because it removes two big obstacles to change. The first is the fear of change. Since the goal isn’t to make great changes, you’ll be less anxious. You’ll also have more realistic expectations and, therefore, you’ll experience fewer disappointments.

In addition, the Kaizen method also helps prevent procrastination, which is basically postponing change. If you feel like you have a huge task in front of you, you’re likely to postpone starting it. You know what standards can be intimidating to you, and this method of continuous improvement removes that obstacle so it doesn’t hinder change.

People among cogwheels representing the Kaizen method.

So small it’s impossible to fail

The Kaizen method makes you set small but continuous goals or challenges. These objectives are so accessible that it’s practically impossible to fail. For example, if you want to pay all your debts, this method encourages you to save a small amount of money each day.

This method bases itself on the “one small step at a time” principle. The philosophy is that, by focusing on each single step, you can get very far.

The level of difficulty will increase eventually but you’ll advance slowly and continuously. However, the key is to not see it as an obligation. You should only take another step if you feel ready.

The only thing you’re committing to with this method is to get better at something by improving little by little every day. Obviously, you must be aware that some goals will take longer to achieve. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you work toward achieving it every day and that should make you feel better.

A business woman guiding men.

A chain of achievements

The Kaizen method invites us to not stagnate, to not let the day go by without improving something. The important thing here is that you’re not focusing on the final goal but on the process itself. This method also tells us to cultivate a lifestyle in which we’re constantly bettering ourselves. This will make us feel like winners all the time.

And it’s not only about the satisfaction of having achieved a goal each day, it’s also about how this is an effective way of solving big problems. Japan itself came out of a huge crisis by applying this philosophy little by little.

You can apply this method to any area of your life, like weight loss or romantic relationships. When you start to implement it, you’ll feel different. You’ll feel like you have more control over your life and you’ll be more optimistic to live it.

  • Atehortua Tapias, y. a., & Restrepo Correa, J. H. (2010). Kaizen: Un caso de estudio. Scientia et Technica, 16(45).