Breaking News

Book Review: The Spirit Of Kaizen

By Brenda JubinMarket OverviewNov 26, 2012 06:06AM ET
Book Review: The Spirit Of Kaizen
By Brenda Jubin   |  Nov 26, 2012 06:06AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
In Japanese “kaizen” means “good change.” Although the word is identified with the dominance of Japanese businesses in the second half of the twentieth century, it had its roots in U.S. government programs instituted during World War II known as Training Within Industry (TWI). TWI stressed that since there was no time for corporations to perform total makeovers to meet wartime needs, they should instead pursue continuous improvement using what they had. As a strategy for change, kaizen “asks for nothing other than small, doable steps toward improvement.”

In The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Small Step at a Time (McGraw-Hill, 2013) Robert Maurer, a psychologist on the faculty of the UCLA and University of Washington Schools of Medicine, explores the many ways in which kaizen can help organizations make changes with minimal disruption and help people improve both their work and their personal lives.

By instinct most people resist change. The amygdala “smells danger whenever you try to change your routine—because to the amygdala your routine feels secure, good, and safe.” (p. 17) As a result, innovation, by which Maurer means radical change, rarely works. If, however, “the amygdala is like an alarm system, small steps are like cat burglars. Quietly, slowly, and softly, they pad past your fears. Your alarm never goes off.” (p. 18) Rather than looking for the “one big thing” to solve a problem, people should take very, very small steps. In this way they can change habits, even find inspiration, all with minimal stress. (“Inspiration,” Maurer writes, “is much more likely to develop from the habit of consistently paying attention to life’s small moments.” [p. 84])

Maurer demonstrates the value of kaizen in business. Take UPS, for instance, a company “with a kaizenlike attention to detail. (The company saves space at its dispatch centers by mandating that its brown vans park exactly five inches apart, with the rearview mirrors overlapping.) Using kaizen thinking, the UPS engineers recognized that left-hand turns are costly to the company; trucks have to idle longer at intersections, consuming extra fuel and taking up precious time. The engineers edited their GPS software to reduce left-hand turns. UPS has estimated that in one year, this change saved 28.5 million miles off their usual routes and saved 3 million gallons of gas. And within five months of the change, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by more than a thousand metric tons in New York City alone.” (p. 56)

Lately there’s been a great deal of focus on little things—“little bets” come immediately to mind. I for one am a believer. Making little bets can potentially reap big rewards with minimal risk; taking little steps can bring about significant change with minimal stress.

Let me close with an excerpt from the most recent Yale Alumni Magazine about Richard Levin, the retiring president of Yale, which I believe reinforces this point. “An admirer of Rick Levin’s once told me that she hadn’t started out that way. When he was picked as the 22nd president of Yale, she was unimpressed. He wasn’t charismatic. He lacked the rhetorical flair that had become a hallmark of Yale presidents. ‘But then,’ she said, ‘he went and he fixed this little thing’—circling her hands around a spot on her desk as if it were some roiling problem on campus. ‘And then he fixed that’—and then another problem, and another and another, until she had become an ardent believer.” His presidency was described as “a record of specifics.”
Book Review: The Spirit Of Kaizen
Book Review: The Spirit Of Kaizen

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Write your thoughts here
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Post also to:
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Post 1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email