The first time I read Gemba Kaizen by Masaaki Imai, I was a junior manager responsible for several production lines. The concept of improving processes by taking small steps at a time capture my attention. It was the beginning of a never-ending learning process in continuous improvement. I believe in this philosophy; it drives the way I work and make decisions. I don’t remember when I started, but one day I realize that kaizen or the art of improving by taking small steps was my way of life. I was learning and improving how I do things all the time.
Small steps as way of life
After that realization, I started to consciously apply the basic concepts of some tools in my house. For example, I started to use 5S to ensure I kept everything in my kitchen, closets, and garage organized. My father learned that if he put things in their place, he wasted no time when he needed them again. I also use kanban for my groceries to ensure that I don’t run out of my favorite items or over-stock the less used items. Visual management becomes a staple in my calendars, inbox, and agendas.
Over the years, I roll out my home CI initiatives to improve home tasks, from cooking to gardening. I used PDCA to cut time, distance, and other types of waste. The strategy I follow is to change things in small steps. I create small steps by breaking a task into smaller pieces. I do a plan for each assignment, test it, learn the result, and adjust.
When I started gardening, I had no clue what I was doing. In the beginning, I bought grown plants at local stores. After work, I used to relax while taking care of them. That was fun, but I wanted more. Therefore, I start reading and learning what types of vegetables grow in my area. The first year I took note of everything I did. At the end of the season, I noted what worked and what didn’t. I kept doing that every year, learning more and taking small risks at a time. My gardening skills are much better now, and the number of vegetables harvested each season is growing.
Small steps to create or break a habit, or develop a skill
CI is useful for creating a habit, break a habit, or develop new skills. The formation of a new habit has three steps, a trigger, the routine, and the reward. Make sure that the new routine is a small step. I know it works but, I could not explain why until I read the book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer.
In his book, he explains how to overcome fear and procrastination with seven small steps. He also talks about how the reptilian brain governs the fight-or-flight response that keeps us alive in the face of danger. When something triggers fear, this response kicks in to sabotage your intentions. The trick to achieving change is to think of small steps. Maurer recommends asking your brain what one small step you could take toward reaching your goal. Small questions or small steps keep the fight-or-flight response in off position.
Fear paralyze us, use small steps to keep going
Fear or uncomfortable feelings keep us from doing things that we don’t like. When you faced a situation you don’t like, the flight mode kicks in. As a result, you ignore the event until you can’t anymore. By then, it is a hot mess, only because you did not deal with it before. It is better to listen to the warning signs and gut feelings that tell you that something is wrong. Once you recognized the warning, deal with a small problem and not a big one.
A different way to see and do things
The secret to your success is to take small steps. Sounds funny, even silly, but it works. Before we learn to run, we learn to crawl, take one step while holding onto something, and then walk without help. Breaking a task into smaller pieces makes sense. It allows you to grasp the situation and deal with it with greater chances of success. Many small wins add up to a big win. Do not let fear paralyze you. Keep going, one small step at a time.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. Mark Twain