Make It Business Magazine | Inspiring Small Business & Entreprenuers To Think Big

Improve, and then improve some more: Follow the Japanese concept of kaizen, or continually trying new ideas


So, you want to grow your business. How do you do that? Where do you start? There’s so much to do and so little time to accomplish it all!

Properly run, a business may be an effective tool to support the entrepreneur in reaching larger goals and commitments in life.

However, too often, rather than supporting entrepreneurs, the business enslaves them to its care. Rather than a tool to enhance life, a business may become a millstone, to be battled daily.

This kind of concern is a very common one that many entrepreneurs face. When you add the idea of growing a business or a sales practice, this may, at times, feel totally overwhelming.

Enter the notion of kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning incremental growth or continuous improvement by doing little things better. By breaking things down to their sub-components – and sub-sub-components, and so on – difficult tasks become doable.

Each of the major issues and concerns an owner faces may be broken down into a series of smaller items, which, once clarified, are much easier to address. Through active work on what appear to be the “little things,” people are amazed at the lasting results they achieve. These results usually go straight to the bottom-line profits of a firm.
What stops us from achieving?

In school, we were trained to get the “right” answer. As far back as grade one, if we got perfect on a test, we got a star. Sometimes they were red stars.

Other times they were green. If it was a really important test, we would get a gold star (and that was as big a deal as there was!). Perfection was rewarded; poor marks were shunned.

Perfection versus kaizen

We have been very well trained in seeking perfection. Yet this runs totally counter to the concept of kaizen. The philosophy of kaizen emphasizes small, incremental adjustments, or fine-tuning, of an existing situation, rather than the “all or nothing” approach usually in place when people are seeking perfection.

Simply stated, the philosophy of kaizen can be summarized as follows:
• bad is better than nothing
• good is better than bad
• perfect is the enemy of good.

Bad is better than nothing. Life rewards action, not perfection. Too often people don’t start tasks because they are afraid that they will not do well the first time through. Yet, if we all allowed ourselves to be at the effect of this notion, then no learning would take place.

It is often easier to make adjustments once you have started something than it is to get started in the first place. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you’ve learned from that.

Good is better than bad. I have received very little resistance to this idea.

But, perfect as the enemy of good? Weren’t we taught to seek perfection in everything we do? After all, we worked hard for those stars, and occasionally we got them. How could perfect be the enemy of good?

Two reasons: 1) If it needs to be perfect to be satisfactory, you may never get started. 2) If you ever declare something perfect, that means that you can never improve it further.
How does this apply to an entrepreneur’s life?

It is quite common to see entrepreneurs and salespeople completely overwhelmed by this month’s goal for new business. The goal may be huge, but there is only one way to achieve it. That is, one step at a time.

Let’s say you determine that in order to reach your sales goal this month, you need to make 150 calls. That sounds pretty ominous. Ten calls a day, or five calls when you get into the office, followed by five calls right after lunch seems a little better. How about making one call in a series of other tasks. Then after that, you could always make one call in a sequence of other tasks again.

By breaking larger tasks into smaller tasks, work gets done; contacts get made; goals get achieved. Thus you will be able to enjoy achieving your goals, one step at a time.

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