You’ve probably started to notice some of the similarities between Lean and Zen from the background information already presented. But let’s review some of the key confluences to set the perspective for future discussion.
Both Lean and Zen have the concept of awareness through observation. One of the giants of Lean, Taiichi Ohno of Toyota, had his engineers go and stand in a small circle on the factory floor, sometimes for as long as a day. The intent was to observe the process and look for opportunities for improvement. The long period of time created an immersion, removing external distractions.
Similarly, Zen awareness centers on the practice of meditation, sitting silently for sometimes long periods of time, calming the mind so you can observe the true reality of the present.
The concept of simplicity is fundamental to both Lean and Zen. With Lean you are continually working to improve a process to remove waste, taking it to its simplest possible state. With Zen simplicity helps create harmony.
Harmony itself in Zen is akin to the Lean concept of flow. Harmony is balance, effortless flow, and often described in Zen as like water. Coincidentally, Ohno also used the water metaphor to describe optimum flow in a factory.
Awareness, simplicity, harmony, balance, and flow. As we’ll soon see, this is just the start of the nexus between Lean and Zen.