Thursday, April 22, 2010


"Kaizen" is a Japanese word that has come to mean "continuous improvement." Many Japanese companies have this spirit of kaizen, in which they are constantly assessing where they are and where there are opportunities to do better. Done well, kaizen is about transparency all the way from line workers to the CEO.

Unfortunately, one of the foremost practitioners of kaizen, Toyota, has taken a bid of a bad rap lately, and some have been quick to say "so much for kaizen." But Toyota is a good example of the importance of staying true to kaizen, and not hiding things when they are different than what you want.

I mentioned a big presentation that I had in this blog two days ago. I was teaming with a more experienced person, my boss, and it was a great opportunity to assess where I was, and to learn how to be better.

He was very complimentary, and at one time, that might have been enough. But I tried to make enough notes about things that he added that I did not know, so that next time, I can go a bit deeper into the material, and do a better job than I did.

We can be hard on ourselves without feeling bad about it. At one time, I would have thought that I should do it just like him, and that if I could not it meant that something was wrong with me. But over time, I have come to realize that in each moment, we are where we are. I did what was possible that day. I did what was possible given my seven weeks on the job, and from that perspective I did pretty well. But I have a long way to go.

Next time, I will do better. And the time after that, better still. That is part of the process. That is how we learn. And when we don't do that, when we aren't ruthlessly honest with ourselves and those around us, we end up hiding things. Then we make the kind of headlines we don't want, much like Toyota has done in the past few months.


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