I knew when I embarked on my lean journey that it would be stimulating, challenging, allow for personal development and that I would be pushed beyond my comfort zone at some point. Through the Greenbelt training program I gained a broader conceptual and application understanding of the basics of the lean toolkit, be it 5S (sort, stabilize, shine, standardize and sustain), value stream mapping (VSM), root cause analysis and Value Innovation, theories which I had previous working knowledge of from the UK. The Blackbelt training program has added greater depth, strategic lean thinking and understanding of the methodology at a more holistic level.
For me the significance of keeping things simple, visual and uncomplicated really takes on new meaning. There are so many examples of how we and technology have added a layer of unnecessary complexity to how we carry out some of our process and to some extent how we limit ourselves by the way we think. I saw many examples of how lean thinking organizations make processes easy to understand through the use of basic visual aids. It's basically so simple that's its complicated to grasp how it would work, if you know what I mean. The saying, "a picture speak a thousand words" really takes on a new meaning.
All being said, for me the delivery and implementation of these basic theories and principals alone has not been the decisive factor for the success of the organization we visited in Japan. There is more to it than that. I don't want to make a big statement about the Japanese culture and that it's the underlying reason for their success. Rather, I would state that it goes deeper than that, maybe there's something to do with a certain mindset, values, loyalty a sense of honour and overwhelming pride in what they do and how they go about doing it. The customer really is king in Japan.
Another aspect of the business psyche that comes through loud and clear is the importance of self reflection, Hansei as it's called in Japan. I can not see how self reflection would not eradicate the challenges associate with the term "old habits and fixed ideas". Maybe, we need to take a step back here and reflect on the power of Hansei. There is reverence in the term Takumi, which is giving to individual who reach an innate level of competence in their profession. I wonder, how this level of competence could be reached without reflection and a desire to strive towards perfection, whatever perfection means. The Japanese believe that perfection is akin to True North, a journey which never ends. If only we could somehow instill this mentality into our lives and workplace, wouldn't the world be a better place.
For me in business and life in general, it starts with values, through which culture can be developed and reflected upon to ensure you stay on the right path.
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