Kaizen is a management strategy that I turn to frequently to make sure that I’m centered in my approaches. At its heart, Kaizen is concerned with continual, incremental improvement. Part and parcel to continual improvement is elimination of waste. Kaizen is often associated with manufacturing, but I find it appropriate to virtually all projects. Waste, therefore, is not simply about making sure that you don’t make ill-fitting bumpers for your cars, but really about any unnecessary energy expended en route to achieving your goal.
Again, as is my wont, I find a lot of wisdom in the practices of programmers, and feel they often can be applied to productivity in general, and productivity for artists specifically. So, I was thrilled to read this article from the Kaizen Manifesto website that united a number of my interests.
Take a look at the principles put forth in this article:
1. Make continuous improvements in every aspect of the business.
2. Actively pursue a superior, complete customer experience.
3. Continually improve designs, code, and processes.
4. Strive to increase agility (binshou) while reducing costs.
5. Use the Deming Cycle to minimize disruption from change.
6. Prevent errors (poka-yoke), in software and in business.
7. Respect people, leverage expertise, and trust staff.
8. Reward suggestions, improvements, and progress.
9. Always move forward.
Beyond the fact that it’s fantastic that the Japanese term for errors is “poka-yoke,” I think there the list above has a lot of good wisdom for all of us engaged in becoming more productive in our artistic ventures.
Simple substitution of words allows us to take this out of the programming world and into the artistic one. For instance, “Actively pursue a superior, complete customer experience,” becomes relevant when we replace the word “customer” with “fan.”
Similarly, by replacing the words “design,” “code,” and “process” with the word “songwriting,” in the principle: “Continually improve designs, code, and processes”….well, you get the point.
Principle number 5 hits home because it references one of my favorite management thinkers W. Edwards Deming. It references the Deming Cycle, which I’ve written about before. The Deming Cycle, if you prefer not to click the link is: P, D, S, A. It stands for Plan, do, Study, Act.
I really believe that if more artists would adhere to Kaizen thinking (and, of course, Deming), they would be much more successful.