Kaizen Results with Micro Changes

25 Jan The Kaizen Effect: Achieving Astonishing Results with Micro Changes

Why do most of us struggle to change our habits and make our goals a reality?

Changing habits can be difficult, especially when you are emotionally attached to your old habits. Using willpower itself isn’t enough, you have to modify how you approach the change.

When most people start thinking about making changes, they often try to get to the goal as quickly as possible, relying on being strict and exercising a lot of willpower. This actually sets us up for failure because willpower is finite.

Instead of being daunted by a huge goal, a better approach is to make continuous micro changes that are easy to commit to and keep. Over time, these tiny changes accumulate into big results.

Take money for example. The thought of saving $2500 for a vacation can seem daunting. But the small step of making your own coffee instead of dropping $4 at a Starbucks is totally doable for most people. These types of actions add up quickly and lead to achieving the big goal quicker than you’d expect.

People who view money management as a day-to-day habit save 78% more than people who chase big financial goals. The reason? When you are too focused on the end goal, it’s easy to make small compromises that put off better decisions until tomorrow.

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While the big end goal is exciting, people often over-estimate the amount of change they can make in the short-term. This causes frustration because it can feel too hard to maintain.

While we all like the idea of being an “overnight” success with our goals, we simply can not skip to the end.

Kaizen: A Little History on Micro Change That Had Huge Results

Kaizen is a concept whose genesis was originally conceived by American business theorists in the 1940s as part of the Training Within Industry program. Instead of urging factory owners to make large changes to completely overhaul their systems or equipment, they encouraged making continuous improvements in small ways.

Once this theory proved successful, a manual created by the U.S. government was used to help Japanese factories reinvigorate their economy in a post-war era. It was the Japanese that gave it a name: Kaizen, meaning continuous improvement.

Shifting your perspective to the Kaizen way of continuous improvement

Everything you are right now is a sum of your habits which are made from the small decisions you make every day.

Instead of placing your attention on the end goal, focus on creating micro changes that can continuously occur day-to-day, without huge effort on your part. While it requires more patience up front, and it may feel like you aren’t getting anywhere at first, you’ll find that you’ll actually see change occur more successfully.

Check out this Video: How Small Shifts in Your Perspective Have Big Results

How to Put Kaizen Into Practice

Let’s say you have a goal to be more productive at work. You’ve found that sometimes you are easily distracted, or you get caught up on the wrong things. Here are some ideas to start with:

  1. Look at your email for the first time 5 minutes later than normal and focus on something important.
  2. Schedule 1 thing into your calendar that you need to do but haven’t blocked off time in the past.
  3. Clear your mind and improve your focus by going for a 5 minute brisk walk outside during your breaks.
  4. Ask 1 additional question to try to understand colleagues perspectives better.
  5. Clean up 1 part of your desk before going home for the evening.
  6. Take 30 seconds to think of three things you’re grateful for.

If these examples seem too small, you are on the right track. If they seem too big, start even smaller. Take micro steps towards the habits you want to create, over time, the effort will add up.

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The Kaizen approach is an effective way of bypassing the likely ups and downs of pursuing larger quests, taking the focus away from a ‘magic-bullet’ mindset to achievable continuous improvement.

How You Can Use Kaizen in Your Work Today

Although the philosophy behind Kaizen is simple, I challenge you to shift your perspective about your goals and implement small changes today. These are inherently more likely to contribute to your overall self-improvement as well as any intentions, objectives and ambitions for the future.

So what are you going to do? I’d love to hear any ideas or small-scale changes that you’ve made?

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2 Comments
  • Peter LePiane
    Posted at 12:29h, 26 January Reply

    Love it, Dan. Inspirational stuff once again!

    Kaizen is one of the pillars of an Agile mindset. As an Agile Coach to large organizations, I’ve seen many an Agile transformation fail because the change it poses for an organization is too large. Quite the irony!

    To your point, seems that organizations can’t resit the end goal of being considered Agile and want to get there as quickly as possible.

    • Dan
      Posted at 15:22h, 26 January Reply

      Glad you liked the article Peter. Yes, the lure of the BIG GOAL is strong. It can be so strong that it can keep us from focusing on the small daily steps that will eventually add up to big change. Fortunately, Kaizen offers a better way.

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