Improvement and Maintenance
The Zero Way mentality, inspired by the Kaizen, aims to help you implement small changes, follow easy steps and make common sense choices.
The single most important element of The Zero Way is to never stop improving. For the western cultures, driven by a culture based on short-term goals and visible achievements, and often radical, even dramatic changes, it might seem daunting at first to accept something that is so subtle it can barely be seen and a process that has no end.
But trust me when I tell you, shifting your perception from "setting goals that I have to achieve! And soon!" to "My goal is to continue to improve! And that in itself is my achievement" will be the best paradigm shift of your life. Performance athletes do that, artists do that, business people do that. So why not all of us.
This is a classical "Journey vs Destination" theme. So, in order for us to never reach a certain destination, The Zero Way has its own ultimate, almost impossible to reach goal. And that is, for your life and work to generate exactly ZERO waste. The journey of slowly, but constantly creating less and less waste. Any type of waste. Be it physical waste, such as trash, and non-physical type of waste, such as waste of time or energy. But the journey is more important than the goal.
As a consequence, The Zero Way is a continuous improvement of one's life, whose goal is to generate no waste.
The way towards zero waste. The Zero Way.
Balance between Improvement and Maintenance
Of course, we would go crazy if we were to constantly think of improving something, over and over again. So, rather, we need to find the fine balance between improvement and maintenance. If something is working at its highest efficiency, then there's obviously no need to improve it forcefully. Although there will always be room for improvement in every single process of our life, we also need to realize when it has reached that certain standard that is constantly bringing enough plus-value.
For example, take the stainless steel spoon. Its design has been minimally improved in the last hundreds of years and has been used extensively all across the world. It does its job, it feeds us, it lasts a long time, and its quality has not brought us minus-value because we haven't felt the need to improve it.
This is an example where a process doesn't need improvement, but it's worth maintaining. From a zero waste perspective, the stainless spoon is made from a material that is long-lasting, it does not damage the environment, it doesn't generate waste. It has "Plus-green-value". It is environmentally safe.
Long-term benefits versus short-term benefits
Continuing the spoon example, if, instead of a stainless steel spoon, you take a single-use plastic spoon, not only it is very inefficient in the long run because it breaks easily, once thrown away, it brings a lot of "Minus-value" to our environment, by becoming trash, or even just by generating micro-plastic particles every time you wash it. It is like an employee that comes sick at work and contaminates everyone and then quits the company early, leaving you with a lot of unfinished work and costing your company a lot of money because now you have to clean up everything the employee had touched. Never mind the cost of having to hire and train a new employee.
In this case, using a stainless spoon is better than a plastic spoon in the long run. Taking the time to maintain a stainless steel spoon, aka wash it and dry it, is a better choice in the long run than cutting down the maintenance time by buying plastic spoons over and over again.
Now, even though the efficiency of stainless spoon has been proven, and has been in production for a long time, there is a reason why the plastic spoon's popularity and use has spread. Someone at some point has decided that the plastic spoon cut down maintenance practices. It was easier, faster, more efficient to buy and use plastic spoons than to wash, dry or even carry stainless steel spoons.
However, though the plastic spoon provides a short term plus-value, namely time efficiency, the long-term consequences outweigh the short term benefits. It costs us more in the long run.
This is why, one of The Zero Way's KEY elements is "having a long-term vision". In the case of the stainless steel spoon, the process of maintenance is what needs improvement, not the invention of the plastic spoon.
As such, small improvements in the long-term process are much better than the creation of a cheaper, faster product, with short-lived efficiency.
The moral of the story? Zero Way is all about a long-term vision. Though maintenance is more costly in the short term, the long-term value trumps short term efficiency. Because long-term efficiency is, business-wise, more valuable.
So, always prioritize long-lasting products, even though they are high-maintenance, over low-maintenance short-lived products.
Next, we need to talk about the importance of types of Plus-value and prioritization.
But first, don't forget to tell us what you think.
Have you ever heard of Kaizen? In what context?
Have you ever thought of using it in your daily life?
Leave us a comment and let us know!