This post is part of a series about Designing the Obvious, a book about common sense Web application design. Learn more about this series.
I often find myself overwhelmed by the daunting task of completing a project, or fixing errors with an existing project. There’s so much to do that it feels useless to do anything.
Toyota has the answer.
Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning continuous improvement. It is not about big changes, giants leaps forward. Kaizen is small changes, which over time compound.
Toyota uses the idea of kaizen to design and produce quality automobiles. Though the roots of kaizen are in manufacturing, it’s well-suited for work on the web, where many small changes can be made quickly.
“For every interaction I spell out with a use case, I go back over it several times, each time trying to find a way to make it smoother, faster, easier–more obvious. It doesn’t matter whether the use case ends up changing at all. What matters is that time is spent trying to improve it.”
Many of the ideas in Designing the Obvious are about identifying simple, easy tweaks to improve your project. From trimming features to giving users the right information when they need it, a little kaizen makes a big difference, eventually.
What’s that saying about journeys and first steps? Overcoming hurdles that seem insurmountable can be done by finding one tiny way to improve, doing that, then finding another. I’ve found even the smallest changes have had tremendous impact, especially with how I feel about what is achievable.
Are you practicing kaizen, with or without the term? Or, do you think changes are best made in broader strokes? I’d like to hear about it. If you leave a note below in the comments, you might even get an autographed copy of Designing the Obvious. At the end of this series, I’ll randomly select three commenters and ship each a book.