Kaizen Tip: A New Lifestyle, Not a Short-Term Resolution

Happy New Year 2016It’s a new year, which is a time for reflection. Many people make resolutions about what they plan to do differently in the new year.

People often talk about personal resolutions, such as getting healthier and losing weight. A vast majority of these resolutions fail to take root – they’re not sustained. Supposedly, only 8% of resolutions succeed. 40% of us make such resolutions… and most of us fail… every single year.

What are your professional resolutions?

To engage everybody in Lean and continuous improvement? To engage more people?

To be a better listener?

To not jump to solutions? To not tell others what to do instead of letting them think?

“We’re going to be more Lean in 2016.”

Making resolutions is easy… keeping them proves to be difficult. There’s a reason that gyms are so busy in January… but by March, not as much.

How do you plan on making your resolution a sustainable change??

Don’t think of Lean, Kaizen, or continuous improvement practices as a program. Think of them as a new lifestyle. Lean is not a crash diet. A culture of continuous improvement is not achieved through a week or a month of intense effort.

We need new habits. We probably need somebody to hold us accountable if they see us slipping back into old ways. We might need constant reminders about our new behaviors and practices.

It’s a bit ironic, perhaps, when we think about the word “diet” (and we usually think “unsustainable”). The Greek word “diatia” means “way of life” or “regimen.” That’s how we should view Lean and Kaizen, as a way of life.

I’ve helped teach people about Kaizen and continuous improvement. I always emphasize that it’s about building new daily habits. This requires not just education, but coaching and support. When I helped lead a tour of Japan in 2014, I taught a 3-hour workshop on Kaizen. One of the hospitals, from Indonesia, brought these Kaizen practices back to their organization and they report saving $7 million (USD equivalent) during 2015 using Kaizen (and that’s in addition to other things that are harder to measure, like safety and quality). Organizations that I’ve helped with a “Kaizen Kickoff” have turned a two- or three-day kickstart workshop into daily continuous improvement that sustains and spreads (like this hospital in Iowa).

I hope your plans for 2016 include more engagement, more improvement, better quality, and outstanding performance. What are your tips and lessons learned from 2015? What are your goals and challenges for 2016? Please reply to this email to let me know… and let me know if I can help in some way. Happy New Year!