I have found my thoughts turning recently to understanding the key foundations of successful lean programmes, and from my observations and learnings, a key component of success is embedding the right mind set and behaviours within the organisation. Easier said than done, so I investigated further…

I came across an article by Jun Nakamuro recently (a great source of lean knowledge and learnings) regarding Ohno’s teachings. The article outlined that Ohno’s first stage in mind set change is personal Kaizen. This involves individuals changing their own behaviours in a small way, seeing the benefit, and then through this experiment, judging that further change will drive further benefit.

‘Ohno taught that, in order to change your mind-set, you must change your actions first.’ (Jun Nakamuro)

Too often we assume that our colleagues get this way of thinking from day one – this is not the case, we often find ourselves blissfully unaware in our comfort zones, because as Andy Bounds recently pointed out:

‘Habit trumps Logic’ (Andy Bounds)

This means we may understand that change may bring benefit but our habits mean we don’t think about or participate in change – that is why the first change is for individuals to experiment with behavioural change to re-programme their beliefs.

In Japan, example of this personal kaizen involves a daily routine of raised voices, powerful words and synchronised movement, some have drawn parallels of this to the All Blacks haka! Continuing with the sports examples, Jonny Wilkinson talks in his autobiography how he implemented personal kaizen to improve his rugby.

Then I started challenging my thinking about starting lean programmes differently in the environments I worked in, what equivalents could encourage a behavioural change? It’s a little more structured but may drive a similar outcome:

  • What if an organisation committed to colleagues a period of personal kaizen before asking the colleagues to commit to the daily habit of kaizen within their work place?
  • What if this was an 8 to 12-week period where colleagues were asked to pick any area of personal development they would like to progress? This could be small or big, defined by the colleague, to take them out of their comfort zone. This could be about one of many things – personal finance, fitness goals, nutritional goals, or development in the form of seeking experiences or training, amongst many others.
  • What If the company were to support the colleagues with time and resource to help them achieve this?
  • The power of the results of this activity as they review group achievements at the end will help to start to shift mind-set – and by initially focussing on something that is important to them personally, they have the greatest chance of achieving success if the right environment is provided.
  • This momentum could then be directly transferred into a work focussed habit of daily kaizen. Improving their work processes and the experience they provide to their customers
  • This would show the employer cares and is willing to invest in their colleague’s personal well-being, and that it also cares about giving these individuals the opportunity to experiment with this growth mind set in their place of work.

I’m sure some may review these thoughts and think it’s a tad naïve in today’s climate with the pressures that exist around us to expect an organisation to invest this time on some form of personal kaizen without direct business return. But let’s challenge our thinking – what if this really is the key to initiating an improvement culture? Can we afford not to try something like this?

It may also seem like a while..8 to 12 weeks? But there are many academic articles that point towards sustained culture change taking 3 to 5 years and beyond…

There are loads of resources out there already to support and structure the personal kaizen approach – an excellent one I have come across recently whilst browsing the net is by the ‘Best Self Company’ and their SELF journal which seeks to make personal success inevitable (https://bestself.co/products/self-journal). To me its sensible that the personal kaizen focus is adjusted every three months as a minimum – it has to keep individuals out of the comfort zone, and as our mind set and level of achievement grows, so do our goals.

‘What you focus on expands’ (T Harv Eker)

I’ve enjoyed consolidating my thinking through writing this article, I hope some of it resonates with you too. If anyone out there is aware of example of this in action or is about to embark on something similar, please share – it would be brilliant to hear all about it…