Archive for the ‘New Yorker’ Tag

Improvement: Kaizen or the Big Win?

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

When making changes in habits or processes to improve productivity, which is better: to make a dramatic change or to move ahead with small incremental steps?

Some people tend to opt for the sweeping gesture. Comparing habit change to removing a band-aid, they want to yank it off in one fell swoop rather than remove it by stages. Or comparing habit change to a business deal, they go for the “big win”, aiming for the one life-changing event.

Others adopt the kaizen approach. Kaizen is a method (some call it a philosophy) brought to public attention in recent years by the success of the Japanese auto-makers. (See the article by James Surowiecki in the May 12, 2008 issue of The New Yorker entitled “The Open Secret of Success”.) Usually translated as “continuous improvement”, it refers to a process of looking to get the greatest impact by consistent adjustments in all phases of the manufacturing process.

This week I plan to explore the question of which method is most useful, not to an auto manufacturer, but to the busy professional, who may be a knowledge worker, service provider, or worker in a creative field.

What have you tried, kaizen or the big win? What worked for you? Please post your responses here, and stay tuned for more on this subject in the coming days.

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