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Paul Abraham: Small steps to success

By Paul Abraham, of

Through my many years of coaching and my own self-development I have studied many types of coaching techniques, some concentrating on sport, others for mental health well-being and self-improvement.

Some have been informative and helpful and some have been too zany to take seriously!

Finally I found a technique which worked perfectly with my ethos of helping people in an achievable and non-pressurising way to help change their lives for the better, the name of this wonderful system is Kaizen or the Kaizen philosophy.

I have studied it fully and acquired qualifications over the past couple of years and even wrote a self-help book on the subject.

Over the next few weeks I will show how Kaizen can be used in your daily life in a simple but rewarding and successful manner. Don’t worry that it’s a new-age “religion” or that I’m setting up a “cult” commune somewhere in West Leeds, I’m not, but I will show you how through a simple set of steps you can make subtle changes to make your life more fulfilled and rewarding.

What is Kaizen, and why was it created?

The word Kaizen is Japanese for small steps for continual improvement. However, the basics of Kaizen originate in America following the great depression of the 1920’s.

The principles really came to the fore during the Second World War during a time of great need.

America realised how urgently the allies needed shipments of military equipment coupled with the fact that American soldiers might soon be sent overseas, and would require their own tanks, weapons, and supplies.

The American government, in an attempt to find a quick affordable solution to their problem, created a series of management courses called Training Within Industries (TWI).

One of the courses within the TWI suite held the seeds of what would, in another time and place, become known as Kaizen. Instead of encouraging radical, more innovative changes to produce the results needed, the TWI course introduced the managers to the concept they termed “continuous improvement.”.

The course manual advised managers and supervisors to “look for hundreds of small things that can be improved” as there was not the time for major installations and new equipment to be created, they had to “look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”

This encouraged everyone to look at existing work practices and the resources they had available to get them to make the changes required to deliver more for less on a consistent basis. Steeped in tradition this was quite a challenge, particularly within a military setting where change is often slow, work practices were steeped in tradition and hierarchy was important.

As the twentieth century progressed, the Japanese business market, especially in the electronic and motor industries – which had rebuilt based on small steps – soon rocketed to unheard-of levels of productivity. The small steps approach was so successful that the Japanese gave them a name of their own: Kaizen.

The formation of “Kaizen” concentrated around industries with every employer/ employee encouraged to take small steps of continuous improvement for the benefit of the company. Kaizen offers the opportunity to improve and change your lifestyle for the better in a calm and controlled way, without the stresses usually experienced in times of personal challenges.

The Kaizen methodology is easily applied to individual achievement, using the same small steps approach, empowering individuals through a cycle of goal setting, achievement, and evaluation.

It provides you with a methodology to plan, execute and assess progression and achievement, removing the stress and anxiety associated with failure or overload.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.”
– Lao Tzu

Next article “How to make Kaizen work for you!“.

Read more of Paul Abraham’s weekly wellbeing column here.

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