Jedi Kaizen: Is the Force with You?

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.

8 Comments

  1. Wayne Marhelski

    June 28, 2008 - 9:42 am

    O.K. Jon, I just gotta ask. How many times did you have to watch the movies to pick out those quotes from Yoda? Another good post as always.
    Wayne

  2. Jon Miller

    June 28, 2008 - 9:51 am

    Hi Wayne,
    A couple of these had stuck with me from initial viewing, but to be honest most of them were freshly Googled just yesterday.
    Jon

  3. Dr. Pete

    June 28, 2008 - 11:44 am

    GR8 post, Jon.
    Definitely calls up some of the excitement of Star Wars and puts it in service of relentless improvement.
    Small point – the Jedi were not monks, they were warriors … Jedi Knights was the full name, I believe.
    /Dr. Pete

  4. David Moles

    June 30, 2008 - 6:07 am

    Warrior and monk are hardly exclusive. Just because they don’t call themselves monks….

  5. Robert Anderson

    August 13, 2009 - 5:29 am

    The Jedi Knights were guardians, guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic, before the dark times, before the Empire.
    Fighting and possessing warrior type skills are hardly unique to the movie genre. Those Knights weren’t swinging fake swords during the Crusades to find the Holy Grail you know.

  6. Dave "Master Odori" Schroeder

    March 4, 2010 - 11:06 am

    Hello all I found this view very insightful due to my fondness to the Star Wars saga. Also I am working in the Kaizen department where I work. Also just to let you know Jedi Knights got their rank by approval of the coucil. Only the ones who became skilled with the force got this level. Jedi Masters were ones who became one with the force and had knowledge on many ways to use the force. Jedi were also more than warriors, like we see in the movies. But Jon did make some very good views with using it with the Star Wars jedi connection. I trust in the force of Kaizen, and a powerful ally it is. May the force be with us all and bewell.

  7. Samuell Yew

    June 16, 2010 - 8:32 pm

    I am fully impressed by the depth Jon relates Lean to Star Wars. Story telling is a good way to impress an idea upon people. Picking this widely known story is a good choice. Jon’s mastery of the subject matter and the intimacy with the story makes the relating superb. Great Job. May the force be with you.

  8. Xav

    October 28, 2010 - 5:35 am

    Hi Jon, I comment this post even if it’s a old one. I often ask myself, must my kaizen events be drive deeply ? : Should I communicate a lot before, during and after it (with notes on communication wall), should I assess risks before and profits after, archiving pictures and folders on internal network in the goal of remember it later, etc … Or should I just be intuitive and improve (and show improvements) without keeping archives, without really global communication, …but with the control step of course (it’s my own way today). Thanks from France