Today lean is a popular and ubiquitous process improvement philosophy. The origins of lean can be traced back to Toyota’s production system, which Toyota developed to achieve more yet use fewer resources, and even further back to the family company Toyoda, which went on the form Toyota. Today in a post COP26 world, many companies are very focused on improving their resource efficiency, and lean continues to be a highly effective and popular system.
Some lean followers assume a devoted approach; lean seems like a faith for them. In the 1990’s Womack, Jones and Roos’s essential book popularised lean. And lean has gone from strength to strength ever since.
James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, Daniel Roos, 1990. The machine that changed the world:
Today, lean principles are universally accepted and have resulted in a metanoia in opinion, changing the thinking and attitude to workplace problems.
With its deep roots in Japanese manufacturing culture, lean can be viewed as an extension of Japanese Buddhism. Japanese Buddhism is based on meticulous self-control and its application in life, especially for the benefit of others, and seeking the discipline to improve constantly.
This focus on self-discipline is often manifested in regular ritual cleaning and tidying. The lean 5S approach to workplace organisation parallels this discipline of tidying and cleaning. In the 5S system, workers are encouraged to sort, set, shine, standardise and sustain their workplaces—a very Zen practice.
Other aspects of lean can be paralleled to Buddhism.
Own illustration adapted from (Chiarini, Baccarani and Mascherpa, 2018)
Japanese Buddhism does not separate self from the environment. Cleaning and tidying express respect for and a sense of connectivity with the surrounding universe.Shoukei Matsumoto
It seems good mental health practice to apply some of these rituals and start by taking personal reasonability for our surroundings and putting some order to them.
Lean and Buddhism are fundamentally linked.
Always have respect for spiritual matters and remember to be always grateful.Toyoda Precept.
Lean and Zen Buddhism
Chiarini, A., Baccarani, C. and Mascherpa, V., 2018. Lean production, Toyota Production System and Kaizen philosophy: A conceptual analysis from the perspective of Zen Buddhism. The TQM Journal.