Adopt, Adapt, Improve


You’ve been with this project since its inception. You were part of the first meeting that should define the company’s strategy for the coming years. Spent weeks thinking about it, working on it, always striving to make it better, incrementally, polishing structure, strategy, content, website, publishing 1.0, then 1.1, then 1.2. Small steps, and a great vision.

Then, one day, your client says, “hey, Mr. X is no longer responsible for the project, please talk to Mr. Y instead.” — Mr. Y then enters the room, smiling: “I am not Mr. X, so replace everything you have done so far with what I am going to dictate to you.“ You slump into your chair, devastated.


Constant and never-ending improvement is a basic tenet of kaizen 改善 – do small steps at a time to improve your processes, or content, or websites, or anything else. It’s also a sentence often used in personal development and change management lingo: Improve your personality, step by step, towards your ideal.


Mr. Y is prepared to take a leap. Maybe there’s a business case for his wish for abrupt and non-incremental change, maybe there’s a cold war between him and Mr. X. Maybe he’s just having a bad day, or maybe he must take the leap to secure his position.

It’s all the better if you get a response when you ask Y about his motives, but you don’t need to know. First, “incremental” does not have to mean “small steps,” so even a huge step in another direction is incremental. Second, destroying part of a project always leaves behind its learnings, or at least the shadows of those learnings.

Third, remember that kaizen, when decomposed into its individual kanjis’ meanings – 改 change and 善 good – translates to “good change,” with no indication of the size of steps one should take, or the direction.


Mr. Y is not the new person in charge of the project. He is a new client. Help him get better in what he wants to accomplish, and treat what he’s telling you to destroy as fertilizer to help with the inception of the new project.