The 10,000 things

The term “10,000 things” originates in the Far East and generally connotes the idea of many things. It is not a synonym for “everything.” Regardless, the 10,000 things are what we must consider when we go about making long-lasting change. We frequently see books and other media that promise “transformation,” but we know speedy transformation generally occurs only under duress—is that something we are really interested in doing? We think not. We think 10,000 things that are planned, executed, and achieved provide us with the most reliable path to sustainable cultural change or any other change for that matter.

The goal is to make many tiny changes (of course, the exact number need not be 10,000!) that gradually modify the character of an organization. This approach is the essence of classical kaizen. We can apply this idea to some examples:

  • Cost reduction (“many raindrops make an ocean”)
  • Waste
  • Energy consumption
  • Self-improvement

We might call each step a micromovement. The beauty of the approach is that it is easy to do and provides an immediate feeling of accomplishment. Hundreds of small victories work much better than one giant initiative that fails through fear and intimidation—or, worse yet, succeeds the same way.

Using this approach, we accomplish at least two things: we realize the change and we do so in a kindlier way than might otherwise occur. We move our company forward without bullying, without grandiose manipulation, and without castigation. People become motivated on their own as they realize what they can do.

The only real drawbacks to this approach involve planning and time. A great deal of planning must occur to ensure the cascading micro-movements occur optimally and it take time, as does anything that is worthwhile!

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