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Ed Jordan: Developing a Kaizen Mindset

Posted: 7/20/18 at 9:50am. Column by Ed Jordan.

Yesterday I heard a term that I had never heard before. My son and I began discussing it, and then we went online to discover some basics about the term.

The word is kaizen, which is a word that describes a business practice developed in Japan. The concept is also used in many American businesses. The root meaning of the word is “to improve.”

In business use, it describes a commitment by employees to make small improvements daily to the quality and/or effectiveness of the workplace and product.

As you read this column today, I challenge you to consider developing a personal kaizen philosophy to improve your personal life, neighborhood, and church.

The word kaizen refers to individuals making continuous daily improvements that, while seemingly small, can bring large improvements to the systems affected.

A kaizen mindset encourages participants to continually be alert to small improvement opportunities, thoughtfully develop an adjustment that would improve quality of functioning or product, and then do an experiment to evaluate the effects.

What is required to develop a kaizen mindset? A desire for continuous improvement, alertness to potential tweaks or changes that can influence outcomes, and the discipline to put the plan into action.

Most of us can identify things that we can improve. However, few of us are committed to taking actions to make those improvements.

Most of us can identify things that we can improve. However, few of us are committed to taking actions to make those improvements. We declare the problem to be too big and overwhelming for “little ole me” to make a difference.

We would rather kick back, do the minimum required, and watch our lives and systems sink into the dark hole of apathy. We would rather do nothing that consider doing something small every day that just might improve life for someone or for the system.

In Proverbs 6:10-11 (ESV) God warns us about the destructive outcome of avoiding little improvements: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”

Proverbs uses a negative to encourage doing the opposite. A little laziness leads to more, and the long-term result is poverty. As a positive, a little saving—a little extra saved here and there—and poverty is replaced by abundance. Big results come from little, consistent, effective investments each day.

Those who wish to write a book must learn to write a little of it each day. Those who wish to have retirement income must begin investing a little each week (or day) now. The idea behind the tipping point concept is that as more and more people embrace the new idea it reaches a point where the philosophy of the organization tips like scales as an extra sheet of paper is added until the last one moves the scale.

Creating one new improvement a week and continuing it can produce long-term results.

What about small things? Try saying one kind thing to each person you talk with today, and watch the kindness ripple toward others. Listen to what your neighbor is really saying, and communicate empathy. Pick up a sidewalk candy wrapper and throw it into the trash. Someone may catch on to your idea, or at least there will be one less wrapper on the sidewalk.

Become a giver instead of a taker.

Jesus gives us a suggestion that will change us, change our families, change our neighborhoods, change our churches, change our country, and change the world. In Luke 6:38 (ESV) Jesus taught us: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

What could happen in your life and world, if you commit yourself to having a new kaizen mindset of making little improvements every day that become a way of life Why not give it a try?  You will benefit; and your family, your workplace, your neighborhood, your church, your state, and our world will benefit. It is a new way of thinking and behaving.

Ready to do something new that will make a difference? Little changes add up and produce big ones. What is stopping you?

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.