Lean Living: Personal Development The Kaizen Way
Understand the Origin of Lean Living
The late 1940s saw the start of a revolution in the manufacturing industry. A small Japanese textiles company developed a philosophy of production that enabled their business to grow into a the world’s largest automotive manufacturer: Toyota.
Since then, the principles realised by Toyota have been refined and expanded upon, and successfully applied to other industries, including software development, service industries, construction and higher education.
Surprisingly, perhaps, one area that the literature currently overlooks is the adaptation of these same principles to people’s personal lives. Of course, there are accounts of individual practitioners who have found ways to “take their work home” and apply the things they’ve learned on the shop floor to their home-life.
Nevertheless, it is only a matter of time before a body of learning develops that will help individuals develop their well-being and potential based on the ideas commonly associated with Toyota.
Pronounced, supposedly, “kai” to rhyme with “bye” or “dry”, and “zen” to rhyme with “ten” or “pen”.
Understand Personal Kaizen
Take, for example, the idea of “Kaizen”, a Japanese word (改善) meaning “continuous Improvement”. The emphasis is on a never-ending progression of gradual improvement through making small, low-cost changes for the better, day-after-day. It contrasts with the western once-and-for-all, all-or-nothing approach to fixing things.
According to Wikipedia:
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work, and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.
The word Kaizen is gaining ground in the Life Coaching industry. Personal Kaizen takes this traditional view of Kaizen and applies its principles, not to business productivity, but to personal development.
Embrace Lean Living
The main aim of Lean Living is continuous improvement of ones lifestyle through the application of Lean principles. It involves proactively managing our lives, eliminating anything that fails to maximise our potential.
What does this look like in practice?
As I embrace Lean Living, I continually ask 3 basic questions:
- What is my purpose?
- What do I need to do to achieve it?
- How can I do it more effectively?
In order to answer these questions, I pursue activities that:
- Eliminate waste
- Increase necessary discipline
In doing so, I bring order to both my inner world – my mind and emotions – and the world around me.
Order Your Inner World
Ordering the inner world is essential to bringing order to your environment. An orderly inner world consists of:
- a quiet Spirit
- a clear and focused Mind
- calm Emotions
As I grow in Lean Living I develop habits that help me achieve clear purpose, a mind free from a distraction, and a heart free of envy, bitterness and anguish.
Bring Order to Your Environment
As I order my inner world, so I progress to developing habits that make my environment more amenable to my well-being and fulfilment. I recommend starting simply with obvious but important things:
- a clean desk
- healthy eating
- clean shoes
- a functional filing system
- a health bank-balance
- a well-ordered home
Take Things Further
The philosophy of Lean Living is in its infancy, in that there is no one place that draws together the principles and practices embodied by the term. It is, at the same time, an ancient philosophy, in that the principles behind it have been known and practised with great success for generations. One of the main purposes of Marks in the Sand is to explore these principles as I apply them in my life. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.