Kaizen: Change for the Better
Recently, I came across the Japanese term “kaizen”. The term means change for the better, or continuous improvement. The concept envisages constant self- or organizational review in order to make large or small improvements.
A similar concept is explained in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. There, Clear explains how small (atomic) changes can make substantial improvements to all aspects of our lives.
My favourite anecdote from Atomic Habits relates to the British Cycling team. The team had historically performed poorly. Then, Sir David Brailsford came on board and implemented his theory of “marginal gains”. Under this theory, a 1% improvement in a number of areas will lead to substantial cumulative gain. In implementing the theory, Brailsford had the floors of the team truck painted white, so that any dust that might impair bicycle maintenance could be seen. He retaught the riders how to wash their hands properly, so as to avoid illness. He had the riders’ sleep habits studied and made changes to their bedding and sleep schedules. He implemented numerous other changes affecting every aspect of the cycling program.
The results from Brailsford’s small changes led to the British Cycling team winning 16 gold medals over 2 Olympics, and 6 Tour de France wins in 7 years. Individually, no change led to the result, but taken together, the small changes resulted in a big gain.
Thanks for reading.