The systems and habits approach to improvement relies on very small steps. We find small improvements that we can do and then we do them over and over again.
By doing this we start to slowly build new positive habits. We think through these changes to make sure they help us get where we want to go. Without this approach the habits form by default by whatever our recurring decisions happen to be.
There is a business process improvement similarity to the systems and habits approach. While we may use this approach to improve something about ourselves, businesses have been relying on similar techniques for decades.
One example is through kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese technique for continuous improvement. Literally kaizen means, “change for better.” Companies such as Toyota have made kaizen popular but its origins actually stem from Dr. W. Edwards Deming and his continuous improvement teachings.
Using kaizen provides companies a structured way to continue to find slight improvements in everything they do. Done for a short period of time it may not seem like it would make a difference but when it is done throughout the company and done for a long period, the impacts can be incredible. The small changes add up and turn into major change even though each step represents only a very small part of that change.
In One Small Change Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer , the author takes the principles of Kaizen and applies them to personal self-improvement. He says, “Small changes are at the heart of kaizen. By taking small steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before. Slowly – but painlessly! – you’ll cultivate an appetite for continued success and lay down a permanent new route to change.”
Maurer touches on a key benefit to using this technique. Obstacles to change tend to be small in comparison to a major change so it is easier to keep going and implementing the new small change.
This allows us to put less pressure on us yet still see massive improvement. Instead of trying to completely change something about us that we don’t like, we simply start moving towards success step by step. Then each step might be small but in their totality, over time, they become powerful.
What area of your life do you want to improve? What tiny step can you start to do that can have a very slight improvement? How can you do it over and over enough so that it becomes a habit?
Answering these questions will get you well on your way to improving. But don’t stop with one tiny change; constantly ask yourself what you can do next. Doing this will start to build the mindset of systematic improvement and will help you start doing the things you need to do in order to succeed.
Change and improvement don’t have to be a big painful process. By breaking improvement down into small steps and then forming these new habits, we can break through the obstacles to change and come out a success.