Sunday, October 13, 2013


Kaizen is the art making the smallest most subtle, change possible.
It is the notion that  small changes can make monumental differences.

This idea is not new  to us. 
Kaizen is the basis of this adage by the ancient Chinese philosopher LaoTzu:
A journey of thousand miles must begin with the first step.
It is  the comforting wisdom most often  attributed to Helen Hayes:
The expert of anything was once a beginner  
It is the truth in the oft-quoted statement made by Neil Armstrong as he first stepped onto the moon.
That's one small step for man;one giant leap for mankind.
On small step.
One small change.

I first encountered  this term  in Prevention Magazine (January 2004)  applied to health and personal change.

Then I began to notice it cropping up everywhere.

If we commit to a little the article said, over time the changes are big
If we, for example,  skip one pat of butter per day, we could  lose up to  4 pounds over a year.

If we drink one more glass of water...
If we walk 100 more steps a day...
If we  read 10 more page...

If  ... I make one small change...

Kai means change. Zen means good or for the better.
So in Japanese this term literally means good change or change for the better.

But  for all it generality in its original meaning,  it  has come to be applied and  associated mainly with business in Japan, particularly after World War II, in much the same way that we saw a boom in Quality Control programs in the US.  

There are many business models based on this concept of Kaizen. Click here to view a slide share that presents some of the common basics I found across sites .

If you are like me, change is sometimes a scary prospect, whether in our personal or professional lives.
We resist change.
But one small change--maybe we can do it.

Robert Mauer shares how we can apply kaizen in our personal lives and why  the principle works in  One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.  He invites us to think smaller --to ask small questions, think small thoughts, bestow small rewards, and solve small problems  We so often want to do BIG things instead.                                                                                                                                           One small change at a time.
Larry and Susan Terkel also advise us in Small Change: It's the Little Things in Life That Make a Big Difference!  to make small changes for big results in our health, our relationships- our lives.
Small changes -big results. 

In Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson, Chloe and her friends refuse to play with Maya, the new girl,whom they call "Never New" because of her hand-me-down clothes. Once Maya has moved away, Chloe realizes, with the help of a wise teacher, that she and her friends have missed an opportunity to make a difference with each small act of kindness they could have  performed-- like the ripples from one stone.  
Change can sometimes be funny. 
Small actions can create chains of events that amaze us. 

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie  by Laura Numeroff  demonstrates the hilarity that can result with one small act--giving a mouse a cookie. Numeroff has written several books using this same chain-of-events structure. 

 One small act.

How could this be applied in your personal life?

How could this be applied in the classroom?

I think about the many times in my classroom when a small adjustment was needed. 
Five more minutes each day for writing.

One more powerful question asked.
What else?
What do you think?
 How do you know?
One book-the right book- given to one student.

One small change can make all the difference.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Reflect on a time when you made just one small change or committed one small act.
What were the results?

What one small change would is necessary in your life right now?
What one small change would you recommend for you school, your church, your organization?

Write a personal narrative, persuasive essay, or poem about change.

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