How to Make Kaizen Work for You?
Kaizen is a very powerful corporate philosophy that can drastically improve productivity for as long as it is observed. It roots from Japanese work ethics post World War II that anchors on the importance of continuous improvement in the workplace.
Though more commonly adopted by companies as guiding principle, employees in their own ways can also practice Kaizen. Doing this can change their outlook towards work and emphasizes the need to work smarter, not harder.
Getting Things Done with Continuous Improvement
David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) – albeit being a standalone stress-free productivity method – can actually work well in the principle of Kaizen. The premise of GTD is simple: an employee’s productivity is directly proportional to his ability to de-stress and relax. It posits that achieving productivity and maximizing creative potential in an employee has a pre-condition that his mind should be clear of negative thoughts. The core principles of include (1) reassessment of objectives and staying focused in a state of flux, (2) proper planning of activities and breaking their repetitive nature, (3) overcoming confusion, overwhelming feelings and anxiety, and (4) feeling comfortable with tasks given.
In the context of Kaizen, employees can choose which GTD areas to focus most, and commit to work on them continuously depending on their time frame. It does not require a huge amount of self-discipline, but commitment is definitely a crucial thing. They could work on one principle for a week then move on to the next and so on, while continuing to practice each principle taken. This way, employees are continuously working towards improving their personal processes without affecting their performance in the workplace. Again, the only requirement is for them to hold on to every gain they make in the process on improving themselves.
Here is a exemple of how you apply GTD for your e-mails:
The Practice of Kaizen
If you are an employee who would like to adopt the idea of continuous improvement in your life, you first need to decipher which areas you really want to work on. It could be as simple as streamlining your daily work routine – say from sending emails to writing reports and taking phone calls, among others.
Let us assume that sending emails takes eighty percent of your time, and the main reason why you get disrupted when doing a report. You always need to respond to them or else you forget them. And when you decide to respond to them, you need to take some time to figure out the last item you wrote in the report. Given this scenario, you first have to deal with your emails. The idea is to focus on the “low hanging fruit” or the easier problem before moving on to addressing the more difficult one.
A good way to start is to create folders for each department or supplier you exchange mails with to ensure easier filtering, flagging and answering of emails. You can also set priorities by segregating regular requests and urgent requests, wherein emails needing immediate action goes into the urgent inbox. That way, you can focus your time first on these requests before moving on to the rest. It’s really simple if you think about it, but you will be surprised at the amount of time you have saved versus letting all emails flow into your primary inbox. Ultimately, this allows you to have more focus on your report.
As you commit to practice Kaizen in your daily life, each of the things you have worked on becomes automatic, and each incremental progress helps you become not just a more efficient employee, but also a better person, even on tougher times.