Lean Talks: Sharpening Your Focus

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 it came time for him to personally use a lean tool such as an A3 report, 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 “Sharpening 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 when applying lean principles.

He shared four actions he took to focus his mind 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 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.”

Go here now to get more out of practicing lean management. Join Mike Orzen at his pre-conference workshop on mindfulness, listen to leading lean practitioners and innovators at plenary and breakout sessions, network with fellow lean thinkers facing the same challenges you are by registering today for the 2019 Lean Summit, March 27-28, in Houston. Enroll today at https://www.lean.org/summit2019.

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