Lean Thinking: A Flashlight, Mirror, and Sandpaper

By Ron Pereira Updated on February 4th, 2021

Lean Thinking

I’ve been following “The Bible in a Year” podcast that’s hosted by Fr. Mike Schmitz.  It’s wonderfully done for anyone interested in covering the entire bible in a year.

During one of the recent episodes Fr. Mike said something that really struck a chord in my lean thinking mind.  He explained that reading the bible can result in three things.  First, it can act like a flashlight showing you the way forward.  Second, it can behave like a mirror allowing you to examine your own life.  And, finally, the bible can serve as sandpaper… allowing you to clean up any “rough edges” you may have.

Lean Thinking Parallels

After hearing this I couldn’t help but think of how analogous this is to lean thinking.  We often speak of our “threshold of knowledge” which is a fancy way of explaining that we only know so much.  There comes a point when we have to shine the continuous improvement light onto our processes as we experiment and learn more about the way things work.  So, in this way, lean thinking most definitely acts like a flashlight.

There are also numerous opportunities to reflect on how well we’re doing individually and organizationally.  The concept of hansei isn’t always fun.  In fact, done right it may be somewhat painful no matter how well things have gone.  This is why lean thinking can also act like a mirror.

And, finally, when we’re practicing things like 5S and Visual Management, abnormalities and inefficiencies should quickly stand out, affording us the opportunity to improve.  In other words, lean thinking can allow us to smooth the rough edges much like sandpaper.

So, as you continue to navigate this never ending journey of continuous improvement, I’d encourage you to remember that the things we’re doing often serve many purposes.  Some help us move forward, some help us look back and reflect, and some help us to relentlessly pursue perfection in ourselves and our processes.


  1. Chuck McCarthy

    February 9, 2021 - 7:47 am

    Simple and accurate. Thanks for sharing your faith in such a natural manner, too.

    • Ron Pereira

      February 12, 2021 - 9:18 pm

      You’re welcome, Chuck. Thanks for reading and the comment.

  2. Steven Piscopiello

    February 24, 2021 - 2:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing Ron. It is very interesting to see how you incorporated lean thinking from Mike Schmitz, “The Bible in a Year” podcast. As a student studying lean thinking, this a great simple example explaining the elements of lean thinking in a visual way. I will be sure to show my colleagues this post, to share this example of how we can look at lean thinking.

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