Mike Orzen had lean management down cold – or so he thought. After all, the author and consultant makes a living teaching it to managers and executives. Business people who read the book he co-authored, Lean IT, would approach and ask him to explain a concept or tool.
“They started to treat me like I really understood lean,” he recalled. “And I started to believe it.”
But when he personally used a lean tool such as an A3 report, for example, he’d catch himself distractedly going through the steps then jumping ahead to a preconceived countermeasure instead of rigorously applying the plan-do-check-act method to reach an unprejudiced solution.
“I understood lean. I could play it back to you, but I wasn’t living it. I wasn’t really doing it,” he told the audience during his “Sharpen Your Focus” Lean Talk at last year’s Lean Transformation Summit. Lean Talks are pithy, focused, and often fun presentations on a continuous improvement topic.
“All of a sudden I had a lean identify crisis,” Mike recalled.
As he thought deeply about the people he considered true lean thinkers, he realized that despite their different personalities, all had a “calm focus; this degree of presence.” As someone who practiced meditation, Orzen realized meditation techniques could block the daily digital distractions of modern life so he could become more focused and more in the present moment as a lean practitioner.
He shared with attendees the four actions he took to sharpen his focus when applying lean principles:
- Use your breath to increase presence. Take a deep breath, exhale through your mouth, then breathe normally but just focus on your breathing. Don’t think about anything else. When your mind begins wandering to thoughts about email or checking your smartphone, refocus by “watching” your breath.
- Detach from time. When your mind begins to think about the past or future, yank it back to the present.
- Be humble, grateful, and open. Realize that you are on a lifelong journey of learning. Every interaction with a person is a chance to learn.
- Reflect on using every moment for learning. At night, ask yourself what did you do well today, what could you do better tomorrow, and what did you learn today that you want to remember for the rest of your life?
“There’s a big difference between doing something and being something,” Orzen said. “You’ll get more out of a conference, your life, and lean principles if you can actually be there.”