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Guest Post: Serenity Now

Joe Wilson has worked in a variety of continuous improvement, problem solving and engineering roles in manufacturing and distribution functions  in the automotive, electronics, and food/grocery industries. He was responsible for site leadership of Lean implementation during the launch and ramp up of becoming a supplier to Toyota and was able to work directly with their personnel and the Toyota Supplier Support Center.   His training background includes courses in Lean/TPS through TSSC and the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems program.  He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Shainin Red X Journeyman in addition to training in Kepner-Tregoe problem solving techniques.  Joe also has a BS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.  

One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld is ‘The Serenity Now’.  In the episode Frank Costanza yells out the phrase “Serenity Now” every time he feels his blood pressure rise as a method of dealing with the stress.  I’m sure many people are aware of the Serenity Prayer in which people ask for the “serenity to accept the things that they cannot change.”  I sometimes find myself needing to do one or the other (and sometimes both) because of the way that Lean has focused my view of the world.

Lean thinking seems to me to be a mindset that you have to go all in with to be effective.  You can’t sort of think Lean.  Once you have learned to go through the cycle of identifying gaps, seeking out the waste and problems and implementing countermeasures, it becomes very hard to go back and not think that way with everything you do.  The thought process colors not just how you work, but how you process the news, how you order your coffee, how you view your government operating and on and on.

There lies the challenge for some of us.  We want everyone to seek out waste and eliminate it with the same passion that we would attack it.  We want all of data we get to be presented in the proper context.  We see the waste, the inefficiency, the lack of direction and can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see the world in the same light.  We become like the kid in The Sixth Sense, except instead seeing dead people everywhere, we see waste everywhere.  The frustration can drive you crazy or make you angry if you let it.

What can I do about it?  Here’s the challenge I’m placing to myself.  Every time I sense my frustration with a situation because of the waste I see, I ask myself if there is anything I can do to help change it.  If there is, I make the effort to change.  Sometimes that means helping other people and sometimes it means that I have to put myself in a different situation.  If there isn’t anything I can do, I just yell out “Hoochie Mama” and move on.  Sometimes we have to accept that there are only so many things that we can change.  That there are only so many things we can control.   There may come a day when everyone sees the world through Lean eyes.  Until then, I’m going to work on trying to make sure that my lens doesn’t unfairly color the world.

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