Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Originally posted January 11, 2017   author: Samantha Woods

Wishing you a year of 

Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results.

As the new year unfolds, tradition dictates that we take some time to set new goals and create some planned positive change for the year ahead. In our office, this isn’t unique to turning the calendar page to a new year. In fact, we are continually working with our students to reflect, set goals and create accompanying action plans to assist them on their journey of continuous improvement. The KAIZEN business philosophy of “change for better” definitely applies here. People often ask me, “What does KAIZEN mean? Why did you call your practice KAIZEN?”

Masaaki Imai brought this business philosophy from Canada to the Western world around 1986. The true meaning, simply put is “GOOD-CHANGE” - Kai = change and Zen= good. In other words, change for the better. Over the last few years, it’s been fun to witness my friends and family begin to morph the word into various usages:

”Mom, are you KAIZENING today?”
“Sam - my kid needs some KAIZENIFICATION.”
“I think my husband/wife may need to be KAIZENIFIED.”

I’m not sure this was exactly what Mr. Masaaki Imai envisioned when he was writing about his business philosophies and resulting Japanese competitive business success... BUT essentially, I really loved what he had to say about the word KAIZEN and his description of IMPROVEMENT, not only on a production line, but within human beings:

“One of the most notable features of kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time. However this has been misunderstood to mean that kaizen equals small changes. In fact, kaizen means everyone involved in making improvements.”

As I explored more about the KAIZEN philosophy, I began to wonder,

"What if schools empowered their students and teachers the same 

way a business empowers its’ employees to continually improve 

their processesand systems on the production line?”

Now, of course, schools are dealing with young developing brains, not machines and metal. However, the approach to EMPOWER all key stakeholders to adjust their practices and make small improvements leading to long-term results while contributing to the greater good made perfect sense! Everything that I believed to be true when working with children was included under this Japanese umbrella: goal setting, reflection without blaming or shaming, collaboration, open communication with everyone involved, continual research utilizing the latest findings in our daily practice.  

When you watch THIS VIDEOreplace the words ‘business’ and ‘employees’ with ‘schools’ and ‘students’ and in a nutshell, you have our KAIZEN vision for ALL of our students according to Steve Jobs.

10 Principles of Kaizen for Growing Brains
(adapted by Samantha from The Kaizen Institute definition of the Kaizen business philosophy)

  1. Improve continuously. Take action. Overcoming Laziness - 1 minute a day!
  2. Abolish old, traditional concepts that aren’t working (avoid a fixed mindset)
  3. Accept no excuses and make things happen. Try. Failure is learning.
  4. Don’t assume what works for your friend will also work for you.
  5. If something is wrong, correct it.
  6. Empower everyone to take part in problem solving. Parents & teachers are valuable resource to help.
  7. Get information and opinions from multiple people. Research and find what works. Work as a team. Act with integrity...always.
  8. Before making decisions, ask “why” five times and dig deep.
  9. Be efficient. Save time through small improvements. Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results.
  10. Remember that improvement has no limits. Never stop trying to be better - it is an ongoing journey for everyone. Have a growth mindset.
So, as the New Year unfolds and you turn the calendar page to February, remember that good change can happen 365 days a year, even if you can only commit to one minute a day.

As always, we are here to help. Always wishing you and your family better and better for 2017 and beyond...

~ Samantha

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