#atozchallenge K is for Kaizen

The common interpretation of the word Kaizen for many of us is “continuous improvements”. More recently the concept of “small steps” has been added to the principle.

Kaizen is something that we, as writers, can equally accept as a core habit for our success, not just in our writing lives, but overall.

The Origins of Kaizen


The Japanese word ‘kaizen’ means literally “good change” or simply “improvement.” Kaizen is a Chinese derived word, shared across to Korea and Japan, all meaning “improvement”. But after being applied by Toyota (and other Japanese companies) as one key principle of their total quality management techniques, the world has now begun to interpret kaizen as a “continuous improvement”. More recently the concept of “small steps” has been added to the term.

Toyota actually adopted the kaizen principle from research by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, known as the father of quality management. Along with the derivative kaizen approach of  “continuous small improvements” the Deming Cycle can be applied through many facets of our lives, including writing.

The Deming Cycle:

This is known as the PDCA methodology.

  1. pdca_thumb.gifPlan – Make observations and determine expected outcomes or goals. Devise a plan for achieving those goals.
  2. Do – Execute the plan, preferably on a small scale.
  3. Check – Analyze the results from the execution. Compare the actual results to your expected results.
  4. Act – If there’s a difference between the actual results and expected results, determine the causes of the difference. See how you can improve upon the original plan to get your desired results.

Deming’s/Kaizen cycle above is easily applied to our writing. Plan becomes either plan or prepare, Do becomes write, Check becomes edit and publish, and Act becomes reassess or feedback.

Kaizen for Life

Kaizen is not a philosophy – it is a way of life, and obviously originally simply one principle for productivity.

The main focus of kaizen is the creation of quality and value, not money, with the idea that if you create the value, the money will follow. In kaizen, we seek to improve our skills regularly by analysing the flaws and inefficiencies in our writing, our knowledge and productivity, and the quality of our work, etc.

The improvements don’t need to be big – over a period of time, small regular improvements can have dramatic impact in quality and productivity.

“Writing and learning and thinking are the same process” – William Zinsser.

You can practice kaizen to continuously improve your writing – forever. Writer’s don’t stop writing, nor should we ever stop improving our writing.

How to Improve our Writing

keep-calm-and-carry-on-writing_thumb.pngHow do we improve our writing? Mostly, by far, the biggest improvements in writing comes from…drum roll please…writing. Writing, more writing, and then some more writing. Plus editing and re-reading our work, then re-writing it. Journal writing counts, too.

Second to writing and rewriting, I would factor in regular consistent reading – both for pleasure, and importantly, as a writer.

Attention-Readme_thumb.jpgWe are fortunate nowadays, that other methods for improvement – of our knowledge, at least; is available to all writers who have reasonable access to the internet. Books, workshops, courses and conferences; writing groups, critique partners, beta readers and ease of getting feedback – all can help us improve our writing craft.

Don’t forget the other skills and habits needing improvement continuously – grammar and spelling, motivation and creativity/inspiration, the writing process which is always altering with each project, our knowledge around promoting and social media, website management, and business management, amongst many others.

The Kaizen Small Step Approach

kaizen-small-steps-books_thumb.jpgAside from the lifetime continuous improvements of kaizen, the associated concept of “small steps” is beneficial as a habit for many writers.

Taking small steps into writing is a manageable way to conquer fear of the blank page, for instance. Writing in small incremental sessions with breaks in between, has been found to be a successful technique for reluctant or stuck writers. Small exercises (involving small amounts of time and effort) can also be fun for warm-up writing.

The Writer’s Core Habit Pack for Kaizen – Continuous Small Improvements and Steps

  1. Ensure the writing day is spent writing (and rewriting) – the majority of writing time should be spent on this effort.
  2. Ensure that you also spend time daily or regularly on reading as a writer. This means analysing and learning from what you are reading.
  3. Use small steps to conquer being stuck, or to start off writing. Use small exercises and challenges to reshape your writing, and over time, transform your writing.
  4. Keep a Writing Progress journal where you can document your writing findings, thoughts and progress. Use the journal to analyse your writing successes and areas where you can improve, and to plan how to better your writing.
  5. Keep yourself abreast of the writing and publishing industry, look out for opportunities for your writing, or to improve your writing.
  6. Although writing craft books, workshops and courses are a wonderful thing, ensure you aren’t spending a lot of time “learning” and not actually writing. Sign up for courses only if –
    • you can utilise the training for your current writing project(s  )
    • the course homework requirements don’t impact your writing hours.
    • You can Put your new knowledge into action immediately.
  7. Seek feedback on your writing at various stages of the process, and through the lifetime of your writing. Take worthy advice and work with it to better your writing.
  8. Include your Kaizen practices – for continuous small improvements in your writing within a yearly or regular writing plan for your life.

Further Reading:

  • Jurgen WoolfKaizen writing – 2010 article which gives several small step exercises for transforming writing.
  • Jill Badonsky, author of ‘The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard)’and the award winning, ‘The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder’, offers Kaizen-Muse coaching and certification from her website.
  • Karn G. Bulsuk has some good articles on kaizen principles and the Toyota way, including the 5-Why analysis model for using in the Act (Assessment and Improvement) portion of the PDCA cycle.
The Kaizen Plan for Organized Authors: Take Control of Your Writing Career 10 Minutes at a Time
One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.)

AtoZ2013 _thumb

A-to-Z-Core-Habits3-_thumb.jpgThis blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.

This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.

No affiliate links are used in these posts.

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