March 26, 2007

Kaizen: Better, You Bet

It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better
--- The Beatles (Getter Better)
If you're familiar with Lexus, you'll have heard the taglines "The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection" or "The Passionate Pursuit of Perfection". Put them into a word and you get kaizen, which means continuous improvement.

The Toyota/Lexus factory tour in Cambridge, Ontario starts with a short film and kaizen is mentioned throughout. It's not just a word. It's a commitment. Last year, the plant received 10,000 suggestions and implemented 95%. That's remarkable.
I can tell where my own shoe pinches me.
--- Cervantes (Don Quixote)
Kaizen is based on the belief that the person doing the work best knows how to do make improvements. They just need to be empowered.

The corollary is that you can't improve what you don't do with your own hands. So when we delegate, we can easily give advice but the shoe may not fit because it's for someone else to wear.

I've used kaizen techniques for years. It's liberating. You don't have to be perfect at the outset. You can start with good and make continual improvements. This process is more enjoyable because you can launch more quickly --- during a window of opportunity.

What Goes Wrong
Improvement is difficult to delegate. You need to be hands on. Unfortunately, many of us like delegating to inexperienced staff. We're too important to do such menial work. Delegation becomes abdication if done too early. Do others have your insights? Do they care as much? So how can you get optimal results? Ideas die.

I do much more myself since I no longer have the burden of 10 staff. Yes, there's more to learn but results arrive much faster. Small improvements were not possible when relying on others. That tweaking helps you improve your skills. That's the big payoff: you then do many other things better.

For example, something as simple as blogging has many iterations. I started with one blog that covered many topics. I soon saw the need to specialize. So now I have three:
  1. Insurance Marketing for advisors
  2. Riscario for consumers
  3. Spark Insight for general interest
There have been name changes and formatting changes. Push emails were also added to save you the inconvenience of visiting the site for the latest. No matter how much time you spend in pre-launch planning, changes will be needed. That's okay. That's kaizen.

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