Did You Improve Today? If Not, Why?

Posted on 20 Jan 2009 by The Manufacturer

Jon Miller takes a few minutes out to make some small improvements...

This past Saturday afternoon Mark Graban from the Lean Blog twittered the following to the world:

“What did you do to make your job easier or more interesting last week? What action did you take? If nothing, why not?” 4:25 PM Jan 17th from TwitterBerry

It provoked me to think about how many little things we choose to change (improve) or ignore in our lives each day. The “why?” is the most important, and this is different for each person so we each need to answer that for ourselves. One reason that busy people like me don’t improve every day is that improvement activity is a distraction from getting the immediate task completed. Most of us don’t set aside time in the week, much less the day, just to improve. It doesn’t take much time or skill, mainly just will. We need to be encouraged and reminded that it only takes a few minutes to do kaizen.

When we do make the time, we often don’t start with a standard. For example how much time is spent doing activity X, and then how much time is saved after the change. Doing so might seem meaningless if you are going to get the benefit anyway, but in those cases where no improvement was realized, we can look at the after kaizen condition and ask why to seek out further ideas to change things. Take the extra time to jot down the improvement in a notebook or index card. The growing list of small changes will encourage you to keep going.

Three things I improved today:

> Quality of life: I noticed yesterday that the iTune sounded a lot better on the desktop computer than on the iPod. Today I figured out that pluggin my iPod shuffle into the speakers on my computer at home improved the quality of sound at the bass spectrum, compared to the iPod or laptop speakers.

> Time saving: I installed free software Name Munger recommended by Evolving Excellence blogger par excellence Kevin Meyer (thanks Kevin!). This solves the problem of having to manually rename files with special characters such as “&” which fail to upload to the Sharepoint server. Countless seconds of wasted motion eliminated!


> 5S: I organized my stash of books, digital photos, audio, video and other reference materials on Taiichi Ohno. They are now within arm’s reach on my desk in one spot, rather than stored by category (book, magazine, video, etc.). This allows for quicker retrieval to open them up and quicker storage of those items when it’s time to switch tasks. It is also a visual reminder to do some work each day on my next big Taiichi Ohno project.

All I needed to make these three changes were a few minutes and some encouragement from my friends. These kaizens will have benefits that last for years, including a positive reinforcement of the behavior to look for small improvements. My friends, what will you improve tomorrow?