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  • I’m very pleased to be co-authoring a book on Mindful Lean: Seven Lean Practices to Optimize with Present-Moment Awareness with Todd Hudson of the Maverick Institute in Portland. Since we are most of the way through a first draft, here’s a quick overview of the contents.

    Introduction

    Lean and mindfulness share a common root in the principles of paying attention and respecting what is arising in the moment. It’s not rocket science to conclude that they have much in common when we get to the details. Two key Lean principles help underline this point:

    Continuous improvement is a commitment to constantly investigate what is so to see how it can be made better. The first step to improvement is to really see what’s happening, and mindfulness is incredibly valuable for that purpose. You won’t make something better if (because of your assumptions or your judgments or your distractions) you don’t see what it is that you’re improving.

    Respect for people acknowledges (much like Agile software development) that individuals and interactions are at the core of any process improvement. An improvement that disregards the people doing the work won’t stand for long. The mindfulness practices of empathy and compassion are solid and learnable skills that can provide the foundation for respect.

    The Seven Practices

    The bulk of the book is a review of seven key Lean practices. We explain each practice and provide examples, explore its connections with mindfulness, and include some practical techniques to help you do these practices in a mindful way.

    Value Stream Mapping: This powerful practice of identifying what does and does not contribute to customer value is made much more vivid and effective when you treat it as an exercise in empathy and interconnectedness.

    The Gemba Walk: This practice of observing work activities where and when they happen is deeply dependent on the quality of your attention – no cell phones while walking the Gemba please!

    The Five Whys:¬†Asking “why?” five times in order to get to root cause, and not just a confirmation of your own assumptions, requires asking with openness and curiosity. A crabby and judgmental “why?” just won’t do.

    Daily Standup: Regular checkins quickly grow stale. Mindfulness provides the tools to keep them vibrant and productive over the long haul.

    Experimentation: Conducting an experiment is one thing: conducting it without assumptions and with a curious open mindset is something else again. Mindfulness helps!

    Plan-Do-Study-Act: Each phase of the problem-solving cycle needs to be conducted with awareness and attention in order to be effective. You need to note what arises from each activity, and be conscious of what steps comes next so you don’t over- or underinvest in the previous step.

    5S: This practice of keeping work areas organized and orderly is closely tied to the attentiveness, consistency and relaxed openness that mindfulness brings.