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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tattoos and Kaizen

I don't have any tattoos.

Not that I'm against them, it's just that I know that I'd be paralyzed as to what image to get. Which got me thinking about a story I read recently about a guy who got his first tattoo with the Japanese symbol for Kaizen on it. Unfortunately, they tattooed it upside-down.

Ironically, Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement. So, I guess you can say that the tattoo artist has room for some Kaizen.

The kaizen revolution in Japan took place in the 1950s after World War II. American occupation forces brought the American experts to teach improvement methods (Shewhart cycle, W. Edwards Deming cycle or PDCA).

Basically, the cycle of kaizen can be summed up as Plan, Do, Check, Act:


Establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the expected output. By making the expected output the focus, it differs from other techniques in that the completeness and accuracy of the specification is also part of the improvement.


Implement the new processes. Often on a small scale if possible.


Measure the new processes and compare the results against the expected results to ascertain any differences.


Analyze the differences to determine their cause. Each will be part of either one or more of the P-D-C-A steps. Determine where to apply changes that will include improvement. When a pass through these four steps does not result in the need to improve, refine the scope to which PDCA is applied until there is a plan that involves improvement.

The concept of Kaizen offers us many gifts. A couple of obvious ones to me are that the kaizen method of tiny improvements is the perfect device for anyone, no matter where they are in life, no matter how downtrodden. Kaizen reminds us that no matter where we are, we can take tiny steps to improve. In other words, Kaizen gives us HOPE for the future. There is always HOPE and always room for improvement.

"All that is needed is the seed of desire to improve something," writes Silvia Hartmann in a Kaizen essay. "to change something that needs changing or wants changing or would be serving you and those you love in a better way. Whatever your perceived limitations, think again."

Sir Bowie "trying to remember to make tiny improvement -- but still not getting the tattoo" of Greenbriar


  1. I have a treble clef on my right ankle. No regrets.

    Lady T. of the ink and needle

  2. Kaizen became a corporate wasteland thanks to Jack Welch, when he was the CEO of GE. He called it 6-Sigma, and the highest level of training made you employable and a "black belt". As a result there are a lot of black belt morons and an equal amount of tattoo wearing non-corporate true Kaisen gurus.

    As for tattoos, my son, Sir Ryan, now has 4, which all tell a story of small improvements. He's designing his 5th as we speak. Apparantly it's a soldiers favorite past time, with the exception of blowing shit up, drinking, and girls!

    Personally, not one who often follows crowds, my version of Kaisen resembles a two-stroke engine: Plan & Act!

    Sir Hook Who Has Enough Body Scars To Tell My Tattoo Story Of Warrick

  3. As I wrote on a Facebook Note:

    Almost every girl I know between the age of 18 - 30 has a tat. While I can appreciate the art of a good tattoo, I do not like anything on me that is permanent. Also, I find it refreshing and sexier to find someone who doesn't have one, but your body, your choice. I prefer piercings because they can be removed. I currently only have one that hasn't grown back.

    Sir James "Pierced ear" of Taylor