Does Master Yoda Wisdom Contradict Lean Thinking?

By Ron Pereira Updated on February 4th, 2011

In this famous Star Wars Dagobah swamp scene Master Yoda challenges Luke to raise his sunken starfighter with the power of his mind.

I’ll Try

Luke replies like many of us might when he says, “I’ll try.”

Master Yoda then scolds him and says, “No! Do, or do not. There is no try!”

Contradicts Lean Thinking?

What’s interesting about this scene how it seems to potentially contradict the lean thinking idea of “trystorming.”

Trystrorming occurs when lean manufacturing and six sigma practitioners try ideas out to see if they work instead of sitting on their hands wondering.

If the idea works, great. If the idea doesn’t work, that’s fine too as we will have learned something new.

What do you think?

What do you think of this situation?

Is trystorming a good idea or a bad idea? And if it is a good idea, are we lean thinkers in conflict with the great Master Yoda?

Or perhaps the “trying” Luke refers to is not the same type of “trying” lean thinkers practice?

What do you think?

  1. Ted Stevens

    February 4, 2011 - 8:49 am

    As a long time Star Wars fan I think the wisdom Yoda teaches is to not be wishy washy with your intentions. Instead, we must commit to a cause and go for it.

    I actually think the idea of try-storming and what Yoda teaches are similar and that Yoda would actually appreciate the way we Lean Thinkers attack problems even though we are not sure what the result will be.

  2. Norma

    February 4, 2011 - 9:00 am

    Different types of try. Luke doubts he can do while a Lean practitioner *should* neither doubt or believe it will work. Instead we must be open to the idea of not knowing what will happen which is why we try. Great post to get you thinking.

    • Ron Pereira

      February 5, 2011 - 5:08 am

      Thanks, Norma. Being open to change is very hard… even for Jedi in training! Ha!

  3. Steve Martin - theThinkShack

    February 4, 2011 - 9:47 am

    As a lean thinker – perhaps the most powerful ‘force’ I struggle against is myself. My engineering mind, coupled with the limited scope of my personal lean universe, puts me at risk of becoming mired in the swamp of paradigms.

    I tend to perceive solutions to the problems and obstacles that stand before me in ways that I have already mastered. After all, lean champions never fail…do they?

    Perhaps there is greater wisdom hidden elsewhere in the words of the master…”you must unlearn, what you have learned.”

    With that kind of thinking we are free to try. And think. And learn. And perhaps try again.

    • Ron Pereira

      February 5, 2011 - 5:06 am

      Thanks for the comment, Steve. And, yes, unlearning can be the hardest thing for all of us to do.

  4. Garrett

    February 4, 2011 - 9:51 am

    I think Yoda is speaking of a higher level than just raising the starfighter. I think he is speaking about taking the path of the jedi. Like the path of the Jedi, you don’t try to become a jedi, you do or you don’t. It is a total commitment. A company should either do Lean or do not do Lean, trying Lean is more likely to lead to eventual failure in Lean. Trystorming is how you work your way along the path of Lean, but you should have already fully committed to DO Lean.

    • Ron Pereira

      February 5, 2011 - 5:06 am

      Excellent insights, Garret. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Jeff

    February 5, 2011 - 9:15 am

    Luke’s comment about trying shows a lack of commitment. Yoda is making the point that commitment is important to being successful. Either commit to what you are doing or do not do it at all. In the lean world we must try did avenues as long as we are following the lean philosophy. When we try a new process we must be committed to following through on the learning and drive the continuous improvement to its logical conclusion. When we are done with that phase we start all over again.

  6. Jon Miller

    February 5, 2011 - 4:09 pm

    These are two totally different types of “try”.

    The force is an undeniable power that pervades the universe and can be channeled through will. Doubt and the dark side cause failure with disastrous consequences. There is no do-over once you are on the dark side. There is no PDCA. There is D or not D.

    Continuous improvement or lean is based on uncertainty, doubt and experimentation. The “force” of continuous improvement does not take over one’s character or mind based on failure, as does the Star Wars’ force. There is PDCA. Failing at D, there is CAP in lean, but not in the force.

    The commonality is that the “do” that Yoda teaches is equivalent to practicing lean, while Yoda’s “try” is reading about, thinking about or being aware of but not practicing lean.

  7. Jeremy Garner

    February 7, 2011 - 8:29 am

    Actions that are motivated by frustration and doubt are short lived. However, committment and determination not only endures the test of time but provides more forth coming results. Yoda was challenging the Luke’s mindset, not just his choice of vocabulary.

  8. Jerry Sisk

    February 8, 2011 - 8:43 pm

    Hmm, tricky one! My gut feeling is that trystorming qualifies as a form of waste. If it’s true that a lean journey is never ending then there certainly must be something substantial to work on that WILL produce results. Isn’t this what going to the Gemba is all about? I’m not saying that we should never try, but if we are going to try something it should be because there is a very good possibility that action will help eliminate some other form of waste.

    • Steve Martin - theThinkShack

      February 9, 2011 - 9:28 am

      My gut resonates with your feelings Jerry!

      During my ‘early’ lean days I struggled with thoughts of trystorming disguising itself into something other than a form of waste.

      I’ve learned the importance of thinking like Edison as he worked on perfecting the light bulb. Oftentimes, learning what DOESN’T work leads us to the place where we find solutions.

  9. Jack Daniels

    June 5, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    Trystorming is doing. Yoda would approve

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