Whenever we discuss progress, we talk about the contribution of large-scale projects; they help the nations in a big way. Yes, the contribution of such projects is enormous, but we tend to forget the small contributions made by the tiny business. Their changes can be called incremental or delta changes (In mathematical terms). There are hundreds of thousands of small companies that also help society and nation to grow. These small businesses together also make a significant contribution.
In Marathi, there is a term called खारीचा वाटा, a contribution made by a Squirrel. Squirrels are very tiny, and they can carry small things held their mouth. But they are busy animals and do a lot of work in a short period. The term खारीचा वाटा has come from a mythological story. Lord Ram was trying to cross the sea to go to Sri Lanka. Sita was taken to Lanka by the demon Ravana. An army of monkeys led by Hanuman was putting large boulders in the sea to make a bridge. A squirrel saw this and helped in her own way to build the bridge. He picked up small twigs and made many trips to support the bridge creation. Ram was impressed by squirrel’s contribution. He picked him up and caressed him by using three fingers on the back. Squirrels have three lines on the back as a result of this caress. Ok, enough of mythology.
Small contributions, small improvements, small habits can all contribute in a big way if done consistently. Small continuous improvements are made famous by the Japanese technique of Kaizen. (カイゼン) Kaizen is the Japanese word for “efficiency”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organisational boundaries into the supply chain. Healthcare, psychotherapy, life-coaching, government and banking sectors implement Kaizen.
How do small changes improve things? How are they helpful? I read about the British Cycling team. Till the year 2003 British team was also-ran team in all the tournaments. Their reputation was so bad that the reputed cycle companies avoided selling any bikes to them. In the year 2003, the British Cycling Association appointed Dave Brailsford as new performance director. Since 1908 they had one gold medal in the Olympics and had never won the Tour de France race in 110 years.
Brailsford had a relentless policy known as “the aggregation of marginal gains”. He felt that everything involved in cycling should be looked into for improvement. Even if it gave 1% improvement, it was used. They tried different massage gels which improved recovery time of muscles. They determined what type of pillows and mattresses should be used so that athletes slept well. Many more such changes indirectly affecting the cycling performance were made. But these things improved the lifestyle of athletes which in turn helped them develop better cycling skills. They also used improved seats, quality of tyres and such things which directly affected the performance.
In five years after Brailsford took over, the British team dominated the track and field event in 2008 Beijing Olympics and won 60% of all the Gold medals. In 2012 London Olympics, the group broke nine Olympic records and seven world records. That same year, Bradley Wiggins became the first Britisher to win Tour de France race for the first time. Next year his team-mate Chris Froome won the race and went on winning for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017! Between 2007 and 2017 the British team won 178 world championships, 66 Olympic medals.
The above records show the contribution of 1% improvement model. Sometimes improvements are quite small, sometimes these are not even noticed. These minor improvements are helpful when they are done consistently. Imagine 1% improvement every day for one year, i.e. 365 days. See the maths. There will be an astounding improvement of 3.7 times compared to what you were doing on the first day. The reverse is all equally true. Imagine you are doing 1% worse every day. You will not take much time to reach the zero level.
The small habits that we form are like compound interest earned on money deposited in the bank. It is better than the simple interest earned. Don’t do good things once in a while; if you want to become a good reader, read every day, every week. If you’re going to remain fit go to the gym every week. Go for those long walks you tried to take, regularly. Maybe going on every Sunday is a good idea.
Look at the way how Kaizen helps. Consider a process in which the operator has to bend twice, per cycle. At some stage, the operator will get tired, and his efficiency will go down. Study the process and try to eliminate at least one time bending to start with the improvement. The change is bound to improve productivity. All the Kaizen methods are based on common sense and are quite cost-effective. But for this, a detailed review has to be made for the process. There is a case study where using common sense, a significant cost saving was achieved. Two equipments were kept next to each other. A component processed on the first machine was fed to the next device. It was done manually. The simple solution was provided by increasing the height of the first machine. The component was pushed to the following equipment by providing a chute!
I wrote about habits in details in my blog last week.
A group of about 12 bees in their lifetime will produce a teaspoon of honey between them. The quantity is a negligible quantity, but thousands of bees together produce honey which is commercially sold. Similarly, an ant individually is tiny. But all of them together build their large colonies, take away things from our homes. It is the small contribution that does this work.
Friends, I have shared some of the methods about which I have come across, and I found out that consistent, small contributions are crucial to the success of individuals personally and professionally. Large companies are equally important, but that does not mean that small enterprises can be neglected. Both should be treated on par!
Think small consistently and improve significantly in the long run!