Blades of Grass: Thoughts on Leadership and Japanese Kaizen

A stock photo of dewy grass in the sun

Based on the Japanese Kaizen, continuous improvement is about making sure that we are all improving every aspect of our company together.

The key to any company’s success is that everyone within the organization heads in the same direction together. A company can most effectively improve as a unit if the Project Managers share the same direction as the Software Developers, the Sales staff, as well as the company Founders. We constantly work for this unity of a shared vision at 303 Software.

One of our core values at 303 Software is that we improve continuously. Based on the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen, continuous improvement is about making sure that we are all improving every aspect of our company together. It sounds obvious, but it’s not always that easy to establish. There are constant challenges with this approach and with everything we do that we must always consider. This is not only defined by how we manage projects and software, but also seemingly simple details like the kinds of wires we use to power our machines.

My parents have owned a landscaping business for nearly 50 years. Over those years, they have retained the business of several clients for decades and through multiple generations of friends and family. When reflecting on this success, I wanted to understand the secret to their customer satisfaction and business longevity.

I thought back when I was 10 years old, and I began mowing lawns for them. I would cut a lawn and do my work and at the end, my mom and dad would go out to look at what I had done. While working with my parents, if I did not meet their expectations I was instructed on how to correct my errors. Inevitably, they would tell me to go back out and get back to work. They’d say things like, “see those long hairs sticking up? Grab the grass clippers, go back, and trim them,“ or “The line isn’t straight [from the impressions of the lawnmower wheels].” I would take my grass clippers, go back, and trim those long hairs sticking out, and the work product as a whole improved. Even as a child at age 10, I understood the difference. With the philosophy of Kaizen in mind, as a family and team, we worked together to create a product that garnered client loyalty.

I try to take this to heart in my leadership approach through everything we do at 303 Software. If there are any problems we have, either with some aspect of Project Management or just that one of the wall sockets has exposed wiring, we try to make sure they are dealt with in the best way possible.

For what we do at 303 Software, it’s about striving for perfection and about everyone working together in pursuit of that perfection. This is difficult at times since perfection is subjective, but we feel that as long as everyone here is focused on striving for that goal, our company is inherently continuously improving. As long as each person is focused on making the blades of grass even, we will move in the same direction together towards a common goal.

Even if we can’t always get to that point, everyone is constantly striving for it. The ways we do this are by encouraging collaboration, maintaining grace under pressure, problem-solving together, and providing the highest quality in everything we do. Quality of deliverables, quality of communication, quality of image. Losing your cool in front of a client is not providing a quality of image. If we’re not willing to collaborate on a deliverable, to make it as good as possible, then we’re not providing quality of deliverables. To go back to the original metaphor, if we’re not worrying about the long hairs of grass sticking up, then we’re not providing quality.

Everyone at 303 Software takes this to heart. As long as we are all improving continuously, and striving for perfection together, we’ll continue being a great company. And, I’m proud to be a part of making sure that happens.


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