Unreasonableness is a six syllable, sixteen letter word. It’s a lot simpler to say muri in Japanese. Certainly less precious breath is wasted without the four extra syllables.
Muri arises when you try to fight variability at the surface level rather than at the systemic level. In other words, when you try to make a quick fix rather than a root cause countermeasure to variation, the result is muri and waste.
We ran into a specific example of this not long ago with a client with a seasonal business who needed to move assets in and out to match the peaks and valleys of demand. The systemic problem was a lack of even demand for their services. As a result their were either trying to do too much with too little resources, or they were spending management attention on ramping down to keep the costs low during slow times.
They recognized that this variation (mura) which they could not control in the short term and their response to it of trying to accordion their resources was not reasonable. It created waste. They will need to address their service mix and reconsider their target market in order to address this muri and waste.
Mu means “not” or “none” while “ri” means “reason” or “logic”. Muri is irrational, and it creates waste.
In the prevailing culture of management in the U.S. and particularly in entrepreneurial or innovative, product-driven companies, there is a celebration of heroic effort.
Overcoming adverse conditions to do the impossible is considered a good thing. Too often little consideration is being given as to the root cause of these impossible conditions. While this may be necessary in the early start up days, it is not a way to build a sustainable business in the long term. It is muri.
In the Toyota way of thinking, there is no honor in muri. Being busy is shameful. Slow down and do what is reasonable. Find out why you are so busy. It’s only rational.