In my lifetime, I’ve seen people applaud at the introduction of colour tv, mobile phones and wireless everything. Not only that, but the applause was even greater if these things actually worked. It was usual to expect problems, glitches. After all, this was the latest technology, we had to expect the occasional hiccup. Anyone who owned an early mobile phone knows this.
But, things have advanced so much that we’re used to seeing new technology all the time and we expect it to work. First time.
Perfection, these days, isn’t a lofty goal. We all, as consumers, have an expectation of perfection from the services or products that we buy. Even bus stops have displays telling us when we can expect the next bus.
So when we talk about perfection, we shouldn’t equate it to practicing pain-free dentistry, or seeing our members on time. That’s the very least that they expect. We should be aiming higher. Much higher!!
During the Second World War, the Japanese created a new philosophy. They named it Kaizen. The word Kaizen means “continuous improvement” and comes from the Japanese words “kai” which means “change” and “zen” which means “good”.
Kaizen involves setting standards and then continually improving them. Today major Japanese companies like Canon and Toyota employ the practice of Kaizen. All of their employees – from upper management to the cleaning crew are encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. This is not a once a month or once a year activity. It’s continuous.
In most cases these aren’t ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness while reducing waste, as examples.
Western philosophy can be summarised as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Kaizen philosophy is to “do it better, make it better, improve it even if it isn’t broken, because if we don’t, we can’t compete with those who do.”
In other words, “Good is not enough.”