In the beginning, there were tools.
When the original researchers went into Toyota to find out the secrets of how they built the world’s greatest manufacturing company, they came away with notebooks full of management tools and methods.
These casual observers were able to capture a snapshot of the most visible artifacts and package them in books and consulting service offerings.
Perhaps you read our previous post on 100+ Lean Tools that you can use to build a better business. Many companies today still want to copy and paste these tools with the hopes of driving out cost and freeing up cash to grow top-line revenue. However, there’s a problem with this approach. The truth is that its not what was visible that makes Toyota so successful; its the invisible. In fact, the visible only exists to help stimulate more of this immensely powerful, yet invisible agent of Continuous Improvement.
This invisible hand is the habit of daily improvement.
Of course, the original researchers couldn’t see this happening, especially since they only visited for short moments and took snapshot observations.
So, for those of you who wish to venture down the path of doing the hard work of building and sustaining this transformative habit, here are 22 daily improvement quotes from which to draw inspiration.
22 Daily Improvement Quotes
- “Practice the philosophy of continuous improvement. Get a little bit better every single day.” – Brian Tracy
- “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Will Durant
- “The message of the Kaizen strategy is that not a day should go by without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company.” – Masaaki Imai
- “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” – Helmut Schmidt
- “Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”―
- “The Toyota Production System can be realized only when all the workers become tortoises.” (Ohno, 1988)”
- “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gough
- “Any organization’s competitiveness, ability to adapt, and culture arise from the routines and habits by which the people in the organization conduct themselves every day. It is an issue of human behavior.” – Mike Rother
- “All we are doing is looking at the timeline from the moment a customer gives us an order to the point we collect the cash. And we are reducing that timeline in the value stream by removing non value-added wastes.”
– Taiichi Ohno
- “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” – H. James Harrington
- “This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.” ―
- “Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.” – Robin Sharma
- “Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle, a cornerstone of continuous improvement. The Japanese term for continuous improvement is kaizen and is the process of making incremental improvements, no matter how small, and achieving the lean goal of eliminating all waste that adds cost without adding to value.” ―
- “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” -Abraham Lincoln
- “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks, but I do fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” -Bruce Lee
- “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” -Colin Powell
- “In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins
- “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Rohn
- “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell
- “I have learned that champions aren’t just born; champions can be made when they embrace and commit to life-changing positive habits.” ―Lewis Howes
- “We improve by 1% every day. In just 70 days, you’re twice as good.” – Alan Weiss
- “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” ―Aristotle
What Toyota Knew to be True
No wonder Toyota was so generous in allowing the world in to see how they ran their business. They knew two things to be true:
- It was not the tools, but the habit of daily improvement that made them so successful.
- Visitors and researchers could never grasp that the habit of daily improvement in a short visit; but would require a long-term view to observe thoroughly.
As generous as Toyota has been in developing our understanding of Continuous Improvement, I can’t help but think they were chuckling under their breath at all the inquiries about tools, but little discussion about the painstaking work of building daily improvement habits throughout the company.
Build your own Daily Improvement Habits
I recently had a conversation with someone who was trying to figure out where to start with Continuous Improvement for their company. My advice was to start by figuring out what was most important to achieve for the company; then figure out what was most important for her to achieve in the near future. After that, comes the hard work of determining what it will take for her, her team, and the company at large to start to develop the habit of daily improvement toward the greater challenge.
This will likely lead down a path of developing standard work, visual management systems, value stream maps and other tools that we all know and love; but her and her company’s journey will be unique – and that’s what makes it special.