Yesterday, I traveled with my family to campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana to listen to His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama speaking to a sold out crowd in Assembly Hall. Regardless of your religious or political backgrounds, the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion, peace, enlightenment, and personal development is universal. Even though I am not Buddhist, I found his simple words of wisdom to be profound both on a personal and professional level.
My point is not to promote, debate or defend his viewpoint of the world rather I would like to point out several interesting lessons that relate to the lean journey found in the words of the Dalai Lama. The first lesson has to do with problem solving. As the Dalai Lama told the crowd, most of our problems in the world today are man made and our entire world is all connected to each other so all things effect each of us. Looking at the lean journey, I believe that this simple statement applies to our workplace. Most of the problems we face are created by ourselves. The 4 M’s of method, machine, material and manpower are chosen, controlled and maintained by us therefore the problems resulting from the combination of these elements are due to our decisions and behavior. Knowing and understanding this leads us to the power to change these situations to resolve our problems.
The Dalai Lama talked about the importance of gaining a deeper understanding to resolve our problems. Without achieving the holistic understanding first, we will struggle to resolve the problem. As we know from the Toyota problem solving approach, a key first step is gaining greater understanding of the situation and going to gemba to see for ourselves the reality of the situation. In my experience, we do not invest the time or energy in our workplaces to gain a deeper understanding. We tend to jump directly to putting in solutions and wonder why we still have not solved the problem.
At one point, the Dalai Lama told the group to concentrate first on your internal attitude and thinking. Our mind has control over our behavior and when our mind is not properly disciplined, we have problems. As I see this related to lean thinking and the behaviors needed to make it stick, we must discipline our minds first before we can act in a lean way. It brings the importance of lean thinking into a new perspective.