The type of quick improvements or “just do it kaizen” is sometimes called JDI. Recently I heard it pronounced “jedi kaizen” in passing. The jedi are a group of monks in the Star Wars series. As monks, they live simple lives and work to do good. Perhaps we can make “jedi kaizen” stick in the continuous improvement community. Let’s say that jedi kaizen is the practice of daily, incremental “just do it” kaizens.
Rather than performing a random series of “just do it” kaizens, being a jedi kaizen knight requires a daily commitment to making small improvements, and a long-term perspective on change. Jedi kaizen needs to start with our own selves and how we look at kaizen.
Somewhat cryptically and in unusually clear language, jedi master Yoda said, “You will find only what you bring in.” As in any endeavor, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. First we need to remember that kaizen is “to change and make good” and that in Yoda’s words “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” Our motivation for doing kaizen is important, lest we slip to the dark side.
When you think, and you are using the force of your creativity. Take the first spark of an idea no matter how small and let it grow. Let other ideas join it. What matters in jedi kaizen is to find ways to “just do it” rather than make elaborate plans or spend too much time assessing risk. When an idea comes from you mind, you have already thought creatively about it. The Force is with you. It does not matter if the improvement idea seems laughably small, just do it.
The jedi master Yoda could have been speaking not of his stature but of what we all have in equal measure, regardless of size: our ability to think.
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”
Sources of ideas are everywhere. Creative thinking energizes us. But we must turn good thoughts into positive action. In the words of Jedi kaizen master Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Jedi kaizen does not mean simply going out and recklessly giving every wild idea a go, or changing things without proper reflection, training and grounding in guiding principles. Master Yoda again:
“Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.”
We need to closely follow the advice of one of Yoda’s best students. Obi-wan Kenobe advised: “Patience. Use the Force. Think.”
Many people ask “when does lean fail” or “have you ever failed at building a culture of kaizen” and the answer to both is that you fail only when you stop believing it is possible and stop striving. In response to Luke Skywalker saying that he did not believe, Yoda says, “That is why you fail.” Kaizen is all about people and their ideas. It is mind over matter. We can overcome any challenge if we believe and persist.
May the Force be with you.