Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Using a Kaizen Approach to Simplifying Life

As a busy wife, mother and aspiring writer juggling a full time career, I’ve strived to find balance in my life. Unfortunately the success that I’ve longed for has been elusive. Last year I finally took control and searched out ways to de-stress my life.

To uncover the areas that were causing me stress and find solutions, I decided to take an informal kaizen approach to the problem. Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement” or “change for the better”. I frequently use this approach at work to eliminate waste and improve processes.

Here are the steps I took to.

1. Identify the issues

Identify the areas that are causing you stress and write them down on post it notes, one issue to a note. On a large piece of paper draw two lines that make four squares (like a cross). Across the bottom write impact and down the side write effort. For each post it, decide how impactful a solution would be and how much effort it would take. Add the notes to the chart based on the following:

· Low effort, low impact should go in the lower left quadrant.

· High effort, low impact should go in the upper left quadrant

· High effort, high impact should go in the upper right quadrant

· Low effort, high impact should go in the lower right quadrant.

Any issues that are in the lower right quadrant (high impact, low effort) would be the issues you would want to focus on first.

2. Identify the root cause

Honestly identify the root cause of the issue you’ve identified. I say “honestly” because it’s very easy to lay the blame at the doorstep of others. Remember it’s the process, not the people causing the problem. Instead of blaming others, look at the process you are using and identify where the breakdowns are occurring.

3. Brainstorm solutions

Once you’ve determined the root cause, brainstorm ideas to solve the problem. When brainstorming, be sure to include everyone involved in the issue and don’t throw out or be judgmental of ideas. There are no bad ideas and it’s important that everyone feels comfortable speaking.

4. Decide on the solution

Decide on a solution and keep it simple! Often in a kaizen event I see people trying to over engineer the solution. Keeping it simple will significantly increase the chances of success. The solution should eliminate waste, meaning the new process should take less effort and time than the old process

5. Sustainability

Determining how you will keep this new process in your life sustainable is important. This is another reason it’s important to have the people involved in the issue help solve the problem. Ownership goes a long way to promoting sustainability.

By following these steps I have identified several areas of my life to target for improvement. The result is that I am finding more balance in my life and am looking forward to continuing my progress in 2012.


  1. Great advice. I'm all about problem solving. If it's not working, analyze it and try to figure out what's going on and then fix it.

  2. I love this! I especially love the idea of focusing on the high impact low effort things first so that you can see improvement and feel a sense of accomplishment that will keep you going.