Book Review: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer

The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer is a quick read for dealing with big problems.  I remember being overwhelmed by several papers during college and once I started writing, even if what I wrote was thrown out, the paper started flowing.  It was that initial step to get the process going that mattered.  However, many people are neutralized on the first step and fail to attempt what they really want to do.

Maurer presents several realistic scenarios of how the Kaizen Way of thinking and living can make a difference for difficult activities.  The background of Kaizen development really came from Japanese Corporations.  The USA often settles with, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”  The Kaizen way promotes openness to a broad spectrum of different inputs in order to consider and to implement small steps for continual improvements. Quoting from Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.”  The idea seems shockingly inadequate, but the accumulation is a brilliant acceleration of capacity and competency.

The principle “Kaizen” was first applied systematically in Depression-era America (p. 8).  The government needed to train corporations for the war effort, prior to our entrance into World War II, to provide war materiel to our European allies.  After World War II, General MacArthur rebuilt Japan’s industrial complex.  Japan listened to American lessons on manufacturing, but applied their own humble lessons. Japan viewed employees as a resource rather than merely workers (which America did too often).  However, in 1980, Kaizen came back across the ocean to American technical business applications (p. 14).

Why does Kaizen work?  Change is frightening and humans will avoid it. Change, even positive change, is often scary, because the outcome is unknown.  Fear is the main inhibitor.  Looking at large change causes great fear to develop in the brain and to halt movement. However, a series of small steps allows fear to be bypassed and new brain wave patterns develop with resultant success.

Maurer applies the kaizen principle to exercise, relationships and a host of other challenges in life.  He demonstrates that questions, small questions related to a large issue, are the means by which those issues can be addressed and conquered.  I can’t verify all the information written. For example his section on visualization seems too “New Age”, but the thought process could be used in biblical sanctification if it were written from a spiritual perspective (which it is not).  Kaizen looks for ways to continually improve rather than settle for what works, which is why many of the Japanese auto and electronic companies surpassed American manufacturing for a time.

In biblical sanctification, a Christian looks for ways to continually improve to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ.  There are some actions that require radical change.  However, as a Christian grows, he can never settle for where he is.  He must be aware of the Holy Spirit’s convicting process to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).  I’d suggest the book to regain a long term transformation perspective, but apply biblical principles for life.

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