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Kaizen ( 改善 )

By Jeffery

An integral part of Eagle Crest Adventures is the Japanese word "Kaizen" (pronounced Kӯ-zen). The basic definition of Kaizen simply means "good change." However, in the Japanese business community the word denotes the philosophy of "continual improvement."

At the core of Kaizen is the idea that anything we do—no matter how good we do it—can be improved upon. Conversely, Kaizen implies that stagnation is an ingredient for future decline. In his book "Kaizen," author Masaaki Imai insists this mindset of constant growth and change is why many Japanese companies are the best in the world (Currently, Japan has 4 of the top 10 automakers in the world, 3 of the top 10 tire makers, and 2 of the top 10 electronics manufactures.).

While I doubt anyone reading this blog is managing a multi-billion dollar company, the concept of Kaizen has application to anyone and everyone's life. Here are some examples from my own life:

  • Each January, I practice Kaizen by taking advantage of my slower schedule to reevaluate my approach to the variety of records/paperwork I keep. Every year, I add, change, or delete something in the process in order to make it more efficient and relevant.
  • I regularly attend conferences or take classes to "recharge" my creative battery.
  • Since coming to Lake Williamson in 2007, I have added new elements, activities, and debriefing techniques to Eagle Crest Adventures every year (2014 will see the addition of Zip Lines to the high ropes course and four entirely new low ropes elements!).
  • I constantly emphasize Kaizen to my facilitating team. Staff members are expected to regularly try new things. When something they try fails, I applaud the effort and remind them that "failure educates."

Consider Kaizen in regards to your retreat planning. When was the last time you tried something different on your annual event? It is easy to revert back to what worked in the past—pull out the old schedule, update the theme, and offer the exact same program as past years. This will work for a time, but eventually people will grow tired of the same old thing delivered year-after-year and attendance will decline. Kaizen encourages retreat planners to continually grow from past events, improving on programs and presentation in any way possible.

In summary, Kaizen does not mean a COMPLETE change, but rather GOOD change. Remember, the philosophy is continual improvement, not an abrupt overhaul of everything you do. If you are successful at what you are doing, do not scrap it! Rather, refine it! Hone it! Polish it! Through this process it will look different over time, but the changes will come gradually, as each attempt is improved upon and made better.

Christian Retreats Network /

Based at Lake Williamson / PO Box 620 / Carlinville, IL 62626