There are many instances when we must solve large problems because we failed to notice them when they were small. Tiny changes can add up for good and for ill. Consider these examples:
- The uncomfortable chair that causes a small back problem that flares into a major disability.
- The daily 100-calorie indulgence that adds an unwanted 20 pounds in a year.
- The small irritation imposed on a client (“…press 8 to speak to a customer service representative…”) that costs referrals and eventually the relationship itself.
- The small pieces of insulating foam that regularly break away from the space shuttle’s fuselage, at first having no apparent impact, eventually damaging the wing, causing failure on re-entry.
Here’s a kaizen improvement technique that anyone can use, courtesy of Robert Maurer, author of One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. It will help to bring focus to small problems before they have out-sized consequences down the road.
Step 1: Each day identify one mistake you have made, without becoming angry with yourself. (This step alone will carry you closer to your goals for excellence by helping you notice what is available for improvement.)
Step 2: Ask yourself whether that mistake might reflect a larger problem. For example, if you misplaced your keys, is it an indication that you are over-committed, you are trying to multitask, or are too distracted?
Step 3: If so, ask yourself, what small step can I take to correct this situation?
There is nothing more productive than to deal with small problems before they become large. The kaizen mindset shows the way.
(For more about the concept of kaizen and how it relates to productivity, search my tags for earlier posts on this topic, and contact me through my website.)