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Kaizen and the Accounting Student (And the Rest of Us too)

Accounting, I once read, should be viewed as the darkest corner of ‘the dismal science’ (economics). While it is true that interest in accounting as a major has increased among undergraduates after Enron, WorldCom, et. al. and Sarbanes – Oxley, many business students, small business owners, and even investors regard the need to acquire a working knowledge of basic accounting as a disagreeable drudgery to be avoided or minimized. This is a little strange, considering the essential role that accounting plays in reporting the results of business operations. Nevertheless it appears that no amount of campaigning by hopeful accounting instructors is likely to change public perception.

Enter Kaizen. ‘Kaizen’ is a Japanese word that is translated as ‘small continuous improvement’. The concept is most well known as being developed years ago by Toyota Motors and applied to quality improvements in automobile manufacturing processes; however, the idea has expanded to apply to the improvement of almost any activity. In principle, Kaizen is a task-oriented application of Aesop’s timeless fable of the tortoise and the hare: Slow, yes – but steady, continuous improvement in small steps has a much higher probability of success at much lower risk than a great incremental dash to the finish line that requires simultaneously expending many resources under a multitude of constraints, not the least of which is time.

When applied to learning processes, Kaizen can provide stress relief and increase retention. There are two key points to successfully applying Kaizen in this context:

  • Use frequent small amounts of time
  • In advance, give yourself permission to stop after doing only a very small thing (although it is OK to do more).

Example: You have only half an hour between classes or between other tasks. Keep your book available and give yourself permission to read only one page and stop. Doesn’t sound like much? Think how often these small breaks become available and how quickly they will add up. And what a wonderful relief – you only have to read one page! (But guess what – when you finish that page, the next page may become very tempting…). Finally, think how much repetition you will have.

Unfortunately, when faced with learning what we perceive as challenging material or a lot of material, often we will wait until a large block of time becomes available to complete the assignment. This is very inefficient because:

  • Large blocks of time do not become available frequently
  • We become tired and lose concentration before completing the assignment
  • We do not have frequent repetition, which is essential

By Greg Mostyn, Mission College

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Worthy & James Publishing is a provider of basic accounting books covering fundamental accounting principles, business accounting, and business math. Topics in financial accounting and business accounting covered include generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), the accounting cycle needed to prepare financial statements such as the balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, statement of stockholders’ equity, and financial statement analysis using ratios and other procedures. Internal control and cash budgets are included.

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