Tips for Lean Managers

The Path, the Traveler and the Destination

By Jon Miller Updated on May 20th, 2017

The path, the way, the road, the tao, el camino: the course of the traveler has many names. Each evokes a sense of possibility, anticipation and wonder. What lies ahead? What is the destination? What will one find along the way?

Robert Kovari writes about the Spanish pilgrimage road known as the Way of St. James in his Kaizen Blog. My Hungarian is extremely limited and my understanding of his article relies on my friend and volunteer multi-lingual translator friend G. O. Ogle, PhD. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

What I understood is that it is not the destination that is important but the road that leads to the destination. The decision to take the first step, what we see along the way and what we learn about ourselves as we go down the path are the most important. The hope of arriving at the destination may be the initial motivation, but on the best pilgrimage roads the journey itself sustains us.

The early 20th century Chinese writer Lu Xun left us with some words that have always stayed with me:

“Hope is like a path in the countryside: originally there was no path – – yet, as people are walking all the time in the same spot, a way appears.”

We should walk on and marvel at the fact that the path is there at all. Safe journeys to you.

  1. Brandon

    December 8, 2009 - 10:05 am

    One thing that I would like to add is the reason for not stopping the whole line when a problem occurs. Lets say you have a line with 5 people on it, if one person has an issue and the line stops right then, it would increase the probability of the other 4 workers making defects. It is common to stop at the end of takt to avoid the problems that occur when the other workers are distracted mid-process.
    For the worker that found the problem his/her work stops or changes instantly, to get the necessary help.

  2. John Santomer

    December 12, 2009 - 7:36 am

    Dear Jon,
    I was observing an anthill the other day and I noticed that worker ants seldom walk away from the ant path (comfort zone). I also noted some bigger ants were venturing away from the path but were not worker ants because they are larger in size and had bigger mandibles.
    Only after some of the bigger ants (Lean Leaders) have ventured away from the path would any of the worker ants take the new path. I was amazed! Nature had “Kaizen” long before it was used by TMC! Evolution took more than 100 years from their wasp like ancestors and later developed into ants. They thrive in almost all ecosystems and form colonies that have specialized units handling specific roles (Hoshin Kanri). If only Antartica was the most inhospitable place wherein ant colonies were not able to thrive, you could imagine how humans having “Kaizen” mindset could do.
    Perhaps Lean Leaders have the greatest risks in taking the new paths and breaking away from “comfort zones”. And yes, while change hurts; people should be more forward thinking to see and check what these changes bring for the whole and not only to a select individuals. No wonder TMC has been modest and conservative in their business approach.
    We wait to see more of worker ants follow the lead of soldier ants to realize that the whole colony had gladly followed. After all; “People change when they are ready”. Unlike worker ants, they trust and depend on their soldier’s lead. Look at where ant colonies are now, what they have gone through and achieved to this century.

  3. Jamie Flinchbaugh

    December 13, 2009 - 8:10 am

    It’s being on the journey knowing that you are moving forward without necessarily knowing what twists and turns move you forward. That’s one of the reasons Andy and I called our book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean – sometimes the path takes us down a road we never would have found if we weren’t open to learning. I believe lean leaders should practice what I call “relentless patience” – patience for someone to reach the destination, but relentless pursuit to get them on the path.
    Jamie F

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