The path to self-improvement
The late great Jim Rohn once defined success as doing a few simple disciplines day in and day out. For him it was not the size of the action that you took, but its on-going and committed nature. The bridge between having a goal and its achievement is the practice of simple disciplines. Several writers, notably Darren Hardy (The Compound Effect) and Jeff Olson (The Slight Edge), have picked up on Rohn's teaching.
I have linked their work to that of W. Edwards Deming's philosophy of Kaizen. The Kaizen philosophy is drawn from the Japanese word Kai which means "continuous" and Zen meaning "improvement" or "wisdom". The management philosophy, therefore, is defined as making continuous improvement by means of slow, incremental but constant changes to the way things are done.
Masaaki Imai defined Kaizen as "a means of continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. At the workplace, Kaizen should involve everyone—managers and workers alike. As Mark Hamel puts it, "Kaizen is much more than an event; it is a philosophy, mindset and, for breakthrough performance, a most critical vehicle to achieve strategic imperatives and execute value stream/process improvement plans."
In my view the Kaizen way is not about revolutionizing performance and processes. Rather, it about evolution through small day-to-day, continuous and never ending improvements based on an optimistic philosophical view that everything—even if it ain't broke—can be made better.
Practicing the idea of Kaizen is really easy. All that you require is a predisposition to challenge the process; to refuse to accept the status quo. It is about being positively rather than negatively discontent. The insidious problem is that because it is so easy to do, for the same reason it so easy not to do. Because the action required is so small it is easy to overlook or to put off.
You are in your comfort zone, the space that represents your collective habits or unconscious competencies. You want to be in the desired zone, but that would need you to radically change what you do. While that might be possible, it will probably be a very uncomfortable process to undergo.
There are 4 steps to using Kaizen to bring about change for yourself and they are often referred to as the cycle of self development.
Step 1. The first person you need to convince of the need to change is yourself. Consequently, for change to happen, step 1 is that you need to have the right 'attitude'. In this case this means being able to turn on the '4 green lights of change':
1.I need to change (reality check)
2.I want to change (necessity)
3.I can change (belief)
4.I will change (commitment)
Step 2. Once the 4 lights are on, the learning process can begin. This second stage requires you to go out and acquire the necessary subject knowledge. You can do this by reading a book or article such as this one, watching a DVD, listening to a CD or attending a workshop, lecture or seminar.
However, knowing is not sufficient to make change happen.
As Stephen Covey noted, "To know and not to do is equivalent to not knowing". When working with groups I ask them to consider the following: It's not "Do I know this?"
but "Do I do this?" It also requires you to open your mind by reframing the question "Will this idea work?" to "How can I make this idea work for me?" The first of these questions will close your mind to one of two answers. The second will open the mind to limitless answers.
Step 3 is to then put your new knowledge into practice.
This might be in conjunction with a coach who should be willing and able to give you the all important feedback that tells you what has worked well and what you could do to improve your results still further. Avoiding giving someone feedback about how they could improve is depriving them of a great opportunity. However, as with any learning, it will require some degree of consciousness to practice it as it is still new to you.
Step 4. The final stage (for now) is to practice until the new conscious competence becomes unconscious to you. This is when you have developed a new skill. Estimates vary, but some say that it takes 30 days of constant practice for a new skill to develop to this degree.
But, the process of Kaizen does not stop here. Now is the time to reaffirm your attitude by switching on the 4 green lights again and commit to making new changes. Remember the changes you make do not have to be large and not all of them will work, but you must stick to the process even if you have to alter your course slightly. By following this process, you will make enough small changes that put together will deliver the ultimate change you are looking for.
As Jim Rohn would say, it's all about daily disciplines and a commitment to action.
Author Ian Henderson is a leading authority on personal development. He has worked with thousands of people from a wide range of organisations in the UK, the USA, Europe and Africa helping them to do more, achieve more and become more. Ian is the director of training of Eagle Training Ltd, one of the UK's leading management, leadership and sales training companies. For more information on Ian go to http://www.eagletraining.co.uk