Why not start with the most famous small step in history. That’s Neil Armstrong’s boot on the moon. “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Snagajob’s inspirational theme this year is “leverage.” This means generating substantial power through efficient effort. Kaizen is a philosophy and discipline focused on continuous improvement through small steps. Today you’re going to hear some stories that describe the power of kaizen in work and life. The goal today is inspiration.
Happy New Year! January is when we have the highest hopes for the road ahead – we set ambitious goals, join the gym, go on diets, make resolutions. How many of you made a new year’s resolution? How many of you are still on track? February is when we start to feel the friction of the rubber on the road.
Here’s the top 10 New Year’s resolutions according to Bob Dylan. These are all noble goals. Why is it so hard to keep them?
If you have fallen off from your resolution, join the club. A 2012 article in the NY Times reports: “Most people are not going to keep their resolutions all year long. They’ll start out with the best of intentions but the worst of strategies…by the end of January, a third will have broken their resolutions, and by July more than half will have lapsed.”
We are wired for resistance – which is why change is hard. Whether it’s you, a family member, your team, your process, your company, your customers or your users, most times people are resistant to change – especially immediate, drastic change. This is the Satir Model of System Change (thanks, Johanna Kollmann!). It illustrates how disruptive new things are and how fear affects performance. You are following the familiar path, when WHAM! A jolt of something unexpected or some potential for change delivers a short-term thrill that gives way to chaos and friction until – if we’re lucky – we adapt and adjust through integration & practice phase to reach a new status quo. This plays out in startups and businesses like ours every day. How do we respond to uncertainty and change at Snagajob? The reality is this: after a radical change most of us are in survival mode and work hard to get back to the old status quo. Why do we do that?
The answer is in your brain. The front part is your cortex – where things like creativity, analysis and conscious thought happen. The amygdala is wired for survival – it’s where we process fight or flight. It’s where your fear response lives. When you’re faced with a jolt of change the amygdala is triggered, which produces instant action but limits bandwidth for critical thinking. Sometimes it can take a long time for the alarm bell to stop ringing. That’s why radical innovations are both thrilling and upsetting – it’s hard to adjust during the period of chaos. This is also what Katy’s TED talk is about. [Katy’s cameo here].
[Katy’s cameo here].
Some people are better at responding to fear and silencing the alarm bells. This guy jumped from a capsule in space.
John Moon jumps out of airplanes.
Here’s how the rest of us typically respond to radical change and uncertainty.Source: Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Workman Publishing Company (2004)
In this clip from the movie Hugo, the audience freaks out at the sight of an oncoming train projected on the screen.
We see the allure of change and the friction of fear play out in the political world every day – and all over the world.
Kaizen works because the change you make is small enough that it does not trigger the alarm bells. This is NOT an argument against innovation – sometimes big dramatic shifts are necessary. Innovation is critical for growth. But Kaizen can help train the mind to improve over the long-term and be better prepared for change.Source: Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Workman Publishing Company (2004)
These are the key ideas to practice kaizen. The rest of this presentation are all examples of how this works. Small questions can be radical. Small thoughts can spark innovation. Small actions can be powerful – like a Bruce Lee punch – like leverage. Erasing even a small pain point can create a better user experience. Source: Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Workman Publishing Company (2004)
This is an assembly line at a Ford factory sometime around 1940. American manufacturing methods had improved significantly after the Great Depression. As a result, our factories and processes enabled the war effort.
The challenge was sustaining and rapidly improving output and quality as the war escalated. Many factory workers and managers enlisted to serve the armed forces. How would the next class of factory managers and workers make the surge in production possible without sacrificing quality?
Enter Dr. G. Edwards Deming. He was a statistician working for the census bureau when he discovered ways to significantly reduce costs in the department through careful statistical analysis and small improvements. Sound familiar? This is leverage. Small effort, small change. Big long-term effects. Working with a commission, Deming suggested a program of continuous improvement by coaching new teams to focus on small improvements – not big, disruptive changes. Smaller, simpler improvements were easier and faster to discover and implement.
The result: manufacturing superiority was one of the keys to winning the war. No doubt.
After the war, General Macarthur and staff focused on rebuilding Japanese infrastructure and manufacturing.
By 1950, Japanese companies like Toyota and Honda were producing consumer goods again – but with significant quality problems. Dr. Deming served as a consultant to these companies and introduced Japanese managers to the concept of statistical continuous improvement. While these principles faded in the US – they were enthusiastically embraced in Japan.
Fast forward to 1985 – 1995, Toyota and Honda revolutionized and dominated the manufacturing industry. Kaizen was one of several techniques that brought about this major change. Let’s look at an example of how kaizen is instrumental to creating a culture of quality.
In the 1980s – 40 years after revolutionizing US war manufacturing and 30 years after sparking major change in Japan - Dr. Deming applied kaizen principles to help Ford recover itsmojo. Where else do we see kaizen in the business world?
James Dyson says experimentation is the path to learning. It takes guts to travel that road but it’s worth it in the end. “I made 5127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution…It can take a very long time to develop interesting products and get them right. But our society has an instant-gratification thing. We admire instant brilliance, effortless brilliance. I think quite the reverse. You should admire the person who perseveres and slogs through and gets there in the end.”
We see kaizen philosophy at work in the lean startup software world. In this case, the team builds something small, measures how it performs with users, and performs some analysis of the data to decide how to improve the idea. Teams test their ideas rapidly and continuously until they discover what’s truly valuable. Do you see the connection to kaizen? Small, quick steps. A culture of experimentation and learning based on data. Improvements are quickly incorporated into the process.
Kaizen shows up in the sports world. John Wooden was an incredibly successful basketball coach at UCLA. He makes a case for continuous improvement over the long-term.
Some recent examples of making small continuous improvements at Snagajob? A/B testing on the B2C and B2B marketing sites lets us quickly improve experiences through constant trial and error.ReadyHire scheduling evolved from email inbox to spreadsheet to auto-scheduler. The improvements continue...
This is a photo of me taken by my wife, Shelley, on January 18, 2012. This is about 8 hours after having surgery to repair a disc in my cervical spine. This is me at the weakest and most vulnerable in my entire adult life.
While recovering I read a book called “The Kaizen Way” about techniques for continuous improvements. I got inspired and resolved to get myself stronger than ever as fast as possible. I had made promises like this before, but life always seemed to complicate my physical fitness plans. By taking very small but consistent steps, Kaizen helped me develop a habit of running every day. Each run morning is another small step. I’ve run in Amsterdam, Chicago, Mid-town Manhattan, the National Mall in DC and Red Rocks in Denver. Kaizen thinking helped me develop and maintain these habits. Weather and terrain are irrelevant. I’ve run with the flu. It’s all about the next short, simple run. I was still on heavy pain medication and wearing the neck brace when I started. All I did for the first 10 days or so was put my running shoes on as soon as I woke up in the morning. No run. Just put the shoes on. I was cleared to remove the neck brace, and added a bit more to the morning routine: put on shoes and take a short walk around the block. About a tenth of a mile. This became a habit. On March 28 I was officially cleared for exercise by the surgeon. So on March 29, my 40th birthday, I got up early, put on my shoes automatically, immediately went outside and jogged very slowly a little over 1 mile. That was 315 days ago.
I don’t measure the runs carefully or consistently because that’s not the point. Still, I’m able to quantify performance this year. Almost 800 miles so far. Over 150 hours. I also discovered the early morning streets are the best places for me to think creatively. The idea for this presentation came to me on a run in December.
My goal is not to run every day for a year, or log 1,000 miles or anything like that. My goal is small. Run tomorrow morning. That’s it. The goodness that small act brings to my life is immeasurable.
1. Read the book: The Kaizen Way: One Small Step Can Change Your Life.2. Look up Edwards Demming. 3. Don’t give up on your resolutions! What’s the smallest step you could take toward the outcome?
How will you help Snagajob on its journey of continuous improvement? Start small.What small step will you or your team make to improve a process, engage a customer, or connect with another Snagger or team?What small but bold question will you ask? What small radical thought will you share? What small innovative suggestion will you make?
Why change? Because we cannot become what we need by remaining what we are.
Kaizen: Good Change with Small Steps
1. Spend more time with family and friends2. Exercise more3. Lose weight4. Quit smoking5. Enjoy life more6. Quit drinking7. Get out of debt8. Learn something new9. Help others and volunteer10. Get organizedSource: Bob Dylan
NY Times, Be It Resolved (1/5/12) http://nyti.ms/Rzzyw8
When you improve a littleeach day, eventually bigthings occur. When youimprove conditioning alittle each day, eventuallyyou have a big improvementin conditioning. Nottomorrow, not the next day,but eventually a big gain ismade. Don’t look for the big,quick improvement. Seek thesmall improvement one dayat a time. That’s the onlyway it happens – and when it