The more I learn about Zen, the more difficult I find it to explain to others, and yet the more clearer it gets to me that it is the basis for Zero Defect – Zero Losses manufacturing- or whatever it is you may do or want to do.
Zen is about BEING. Not just do something,
A touch of what Zen is, can be experienced on a site of the KODAIJI-TEMPLE in Tokyo: don’t just click over it! If you manage to be present, to really experience what the makers try to explain to you, you might get a glimpse of insight in the basis of all modern manufacturing strategies…
(You may have to enable your flashplayer to play this video form the KODAIJI-TEMPLE in Tokyo)
What Zen teaches us, is to be completely present, concentrated if you like, in whatever you do. To bé what you do. If you shoot an arrow, become the arrow, and you can not miss your target. It is about being completely empty, so the things that matter can fill you completely. I know this might be confusing…
Zen in Workplaces
Let me link this to 5S workplace organisation. If our mind is disrupted continuously because of all kind of abnormalities (tools not in place, lack of materials etc) take place, it is hardly possible to concentrate on the real task, on bringing optimal quality. So the goal of a well performed workplace organisation is to free up the operators mind from unnecessary burdens, to make space for concentration on those parts of the job that can not- or should not be performed on ‘auto-pilot’; in other words, to make it possible for the operator to be fully present in his/her job.
If you have an office job you will recognize this. How much time of the day can you work fully concentrated on the job you are assigned to? Honestly, is it more than 10%? Zen teaches us the path to eliminate everything that makes us ‘not present’.
Does that sound familiarly? In Lean – World Class Manufacturing – Monozukuri techniques we can recognize this principle in eliminating all losses, everything that does not add any value.
If you have been raised in the Zen tradition like most of the Japanese more or less have, it is fully normal to be concentrated and dedicated in everything you do. Of course one can not always be concentrated, but it is possible to be ‘present’ all the time. One can even be present in an interruption.
… And what if something goes wrong??
If during the assembly of a windshield in a Toyota-car the windshield might get damaged, the line is stopped and all team members from previous and next assembly stations rush to help their colleagues to remove the damaged windshield, get a new one, clear up the mess and start the line as soon as possible. This is done completely smooth, orderly and concentrated. Everybody knows its task. It is about being present. Nothing is distracting from the main task at that moment: eliminating the disruption to be able to carry on with the normal job.
… Isn’t that tiring?
Is it tiring to be present in your job? Think about it… what day is worse: the day you could do your job without any disruptions, where time flies while working from task to task, or the usual day where you run from incident to incident… If your mind is being filled with non value adding garbage all the time, isn’t that the real energy sucker? Personally I gét energy from being able to be present in whatever I do. Sure you are tired after a day hard work, but that is different from being drained in those chaotic days where you hardly accomplish anything, isn’t it?