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The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Small Step at a Time Hardcover – 1 Nov 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional (1 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071796177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071796170
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.8 x 18.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 128,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Robert Maurer, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the UCLA and University of Washington Schools of Medicine. He is also the Director of Science of Excellence, a consulting firm that translates evidence-based psychology into practical strategies for success.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Sharon R. Miles on 18 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had heard about kaizen before but had not looked into it very deeply. I am now a complete convert and an evangelist for it. I'm sure my work colleagues are sick of me talking about it. It's explained simply with lots of examples so you can see how it works. If you are looking to make changes but don't know where to start or are worried about people's reactions then get this book and try the suggestions.
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By Denis on 12 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A tremendous book, full of gold nuggets. What if our children were taught and practiced the Kaizen approach in school?
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By LH on 17 Aug. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
another excellent book from Dr Bob Maurer well worth reading and putting into practice
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan McQueen on 18 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well-written explanations and useful examples. Recommended for anyone wanting to improve themselves, a service, a product or a process. The audio version is also excellent.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 22 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Practical, proven advice that really works 31 Dec. 2012
By Mark Graban - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Individuals and organizations often try to find one major improvement - a "home run," if you will. Someone might say, "I want to lose 50 pounds" or "we need to develop a new product that doubles revenue." Goals like that might be scary... and for good reason, as described in the new book by Robert Maurer, PhD: "The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Small Step at a Time."

There's one action that can lead to lots of little improvements (and, eventually, to innovation) - the adoption of the "kaizen" mindset.

Robert Maurer is a faculty member in behavioral sciences at UCLA and the University of Washington. I previously reviewed his earlier book "One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way" and did a podcast interview with him about that book, which primarily focused on the application of "kaizen" (Japanese for "good change") style improvement approaches to his patients and their personal lives.

He wrote about how "small steps" in the style of kaizen (as practiced in the industrial world) could help individuals lose weight and change other personal behaviors. Instead of telling an overweight patient to start exercising an hour a day (which would cause the "fight or flight" instinct to kick in because it's a scary request), Dr. Maurer would ask a person to start exercising by just walking in place for the length of 30 seconds. This wasn't as scary, so people would try that small step, building enthusiasm and confidence that would allow them to build up to an hour a day. The success rate from starting small was much higher.

In his latest book, Maurer brings these ideas back to the workplace, with stories about how this same kaizen mindset can be applied to improve quality, boost morale, reduce costs, reduce healthcare expenses, and more. The book is focused more on businesses, hospitals, and organizations, rather than individuals - but the understanding of how change happens is based on our own personal brain chemistry and evolution. Maurer calls kaizen "a doable path to innovation" because we're more likely to have big changes occur when we start small. I wrote about similar thoughts from a Japanese hospital CEO back in November.

Maurer describes how the "reptile brain" (the amygdala) in the more complex human brain can help us, as when it's kicking in the powerful "fight or flight" response that's necessary when we are in real danger. The problem with the reptile brain is that the fight or flight response kicks in even when we merely imagine a dangerous situation or something threatening (such as losing one's job)... and this reptile brain shuts down higher level thought processes and capabilities. So, instead of saying that people shouldn't be afraid of change, we should recognize that large changes (or "radical changes," as he calls them) are scary... it's in our DNA... and we need to work to make changes smaller and, therefore, less scary.

In Chapter 1, Maurer writes of a doctor's office that he taught to use Kaizen. They were, initially, asking for innovation. But Maurer suggested that each person think about "the smallest step possible" that would improve the office. He had two rules:

1) The step couldn't cost anything (resources were tight in the struggling office)
2) The idea had to benefit the customer (the patient)

Maurer cites the American approach of "Training Within Industry" and the teachings of an American, W. Edwards Deming, in laying out the principles that allowed the clinic to dramatically reduce patient no show rates and improve patient satisfaction - lots of little improvements led to a successful practice. These aren't just Japanese practices. They are human practices that work around the world.

The clinic was hesitant to use kaizen, as are many, because the improvements seem trivial and insignificant. Kaizen and continuous improvement approaches aren't sexy or exciting... but they work. Maurer writes:

"These steps are so small that they may seem useless, but that's why they work. If the amygdala is like an alarm system, small steps are like cat burglars.... Your alarm never goes off.... You retain access to your rational, creative thoughts."

"The Spirit of Kaizen" is a short book (I read it on my flight back from Japan and it didn't take the whole trip), but it's full of examples that reinforce the core kaizen principles and our understanding of how people can embrace and initiate change for the betterment of customers (patients), themselves, and their organizations. The main themes are a bit repetitive, but they're solid and they work: start small (the smallest step possible), expect to stumble along the way, and continue striving to get better.

If there's one new habit to embrace in 2013, let it be kaizen! What's the smallest possible step you can take toward the goal of having a kaizen mindset or a kaizen culture?

If you're interested in kaizen, also check out my latest book, "Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements."
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Best Business Book of 2012 6 Jan. 2013
By Michael P. Maslanka - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a short and useful guide to kaizen, the idea that small changes can produce big results. When we ask for big goals to be met, our brains shut down. They are overwhelmed. but when we ask "what is the one small thing we can do to get to our goal?", the brain does not get worked up and we can think clearly. A hospital wanted to increase the accuracy of the reports of its radiologists, who work alone. So, they showed them photos of patients awaiting their test results. Accuracy increased 46%. The book also highlights the power of questions to make small improvements:What is the one small thing I can do to(insert goal) that will take no more than(5,3,1) minute a day? He applies these techniques to a variety of areas, including reducing health care costs, boosting sales, and improving quality. While worth the time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A reasonable approach to continuous improvement without enforcement of direct innovation 10 Nov. 2013
By J. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Robert Maurer breaks down the Kaizen way providing clear examples and a straight forward process for implementation should you choose to do so in your life. Several of the examples seem to be a little too convenient (my 1 star reduction), but based on the reading I've implemented several concepts within our workgroup (less than 25 individuals, not sure how this could scale to greater than Dunbar's number, but that's a different topic) and moral has visibly improved.

The take away is simple, as a manager engage the individuals on your team and ask them to provide feedback for how to improve the "X" (with X being workplace, process, customer service, e.g. anything associated with their job) with the understanding that it's asking them for the most straight forward and inexpensive way to do so. Implement their reasonable suggestions and continue to ask them on how to improve the situation, creating a continuous improvement environment, where small helpful item get brought to your attention without you having to ask.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding -Real world approach to implementing permanent change!! 2 Mar. 2014
By Ennoventor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I stumbled on "The spirit of Kaizen" when surfing the audio channel during a long distance Trans-Atlantic flight and could not stop listening. I downloaded the book to my iPad and have bought 10 copies for all my managers.
Robert Maurer adopts a real-world, common sense approach to implementing a quality program without the bells and whistles. The contrasts between the Japanese and American psyches helps the reader bring it home when considering change initiatives particularly in the noisy, competitive and distracted business environments in which we find ourselves today. You should read it together with Chip and Dan Heath's book, "Switch".
Great read.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Perfect to plan for the new year! I will share with my friends 16 Dec. 2012
By marteen Le louarn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a new way to a more stress-free lifestyle!
A better way to make permanent lifestyle changes and not have to re-revisit for changes to stick!
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