Monday, April 7, 2014


What is kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese term made up two characters that mean 'to change' and 'for the better.' Kaizen has been embraced by Western business as 'continuous improvement,' but kaizen is much more than just a mere business concept. It is a way of thinking. It involves exploring, knowledge, learning, growth, reflection, change, and improvement.

I am currently the finance director on a not-for-profit organisation and engaged in a 'discussion' with fellow board members and management over governance issues. I have applied kaizen to develop strategy and tactics that promote continuous improvement in real terms. This direction is being resisted as the imperative of fellow board members, as it is with many boards, is to maintain the status quo all the while paying lip service to the principal of continuous improvement.

I shared my frustrations with a local shopkeeper who I frequent regularly. He brought up the issue of kaizen without my prompting. I was very surprised. He explained how he knew of the concept because his son is being taught traditional jujutsu and the instructor refers to the concept.

The managing director particularly, but all of the directors generally, pay lip service to the concept of kaizen. They do not explore, gain knowledge, learn, and MOST importantly, reflect. Reflection should never be underestimated. In addition, the managing director mistakes expending energy for movement in a direction.

In a martial arts sense, simply training will only get you so far. In order to continuously improve you need to explore, gain knowledge, learn, and reflect. Reflection is critical to the growth process. Many in the martial arts are action oriented. That is not a commitment to continuous improvement.

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