No Money in Muda!

By Ron Pereira Updated on May 17th, 2017

We’re finishing up the final touches on a new course over at Gemba Academy called “Lean Lingo Explained.”

In this course Brad Schmidt, the managing partner of Gemba Japan, explains what several lean terms mean in great detail.

Muda Explained

One of the words Brad covers is muda.  Most of us refer to this word as waste… and it is.

But, like many lean terms, the word muda has a much deeper meaning when you study the Japanese Kanji.

No Money in Muda

As it turns out, the characters on the left that make mu actually mean ‘nothingness.’  And the characters on the right that make da mean ‘money.’  Click the image above for a larger view.

So, in essence, muda literally means ‘no money’ which makes perfect sense when you think about what muda is… we’re doing work that our customer’s aren’t willing to pay us for!

Never Stop Learning

The thing I love about lean is how I personally never stop learning.  You see, I’ve been practicing lean for awhile and feel, at times, I have a decent grasp on things.

Then I listen to someone like Brad talk and realize how little I know.  You see, Brad has probably forgotten more about lean than I will ever know.  It’s humbling, yet inspiring.

The lesson?  Never ever stop learning.

  1. Harish

    March 16, 2010 - 5:54 am

    Hi Ron,
    Thank you for this. On the same note, ri stands for logic or reasoning. Similarly Mu-ri stands for unreasonable. Ri can be also seen in Ho-shin-kan-ri

    Mura however cannot be split like this. (My limited Japanese knowledge)

    Da which means cost, price is not written like the “da” part in muda.

    代 Cost

    無駄 Muda

    Again, I am a novice with Japanese. Jon might be able to help us out here.


  2. Mark R Hamel

    March 16, 2010 - 7:01 am

    Hi Ron,

    So, the meaning of “muda” is more profound than most of us thought. At the same time, it makes absolute sense! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Best regards,

  3. Bernardo Gómez Baranda

    March 17, 2010 - 5:54 pm

    Hi there.

    Even tho’ i had work trying to low the muda in my workplace, i had never thought of it that way, as an absence o money, wich i believe is a pretty good way to understand the concept of muda, knowing that it refers to all the activities that adds no value.

    Thanks Ron.

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