Friday, March 29, 2019

Lean Quote: Perceiving and Thinking Are Not the Same

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"Perceiving means recognizing phenomena by means of our five senses. Thinking, on the other hand, is our mental ability to pursue causes and purposes by objectively asking 'why' about all phenomena." — Shigeo Shingo

Humans perceive via the five senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Looking up at the sky, we perceive that it is cloudy. Then there is thought: Will it rain or not?

Here is a little story that illustrates this point:

Foreman A walks into plant manager Ohara’s office with a safety part and says that a defect has occurred. “What do we do?” he asks.

Ohara examines the part for a moment and then instructs the foreman to bring him the next defective item if the defect shows up again. Dubious because he has received no instructions on how to handle the matter, the foreman goes back to the shop floor.

A week later, the defect shows up again and the foreman immediately rushes to the plant manager’s office. “We’ve got another defect” he announces. But when the manager asks him about the conditions under which the defect occurred, the foreman stammer incoherently.

“In that case,” the manager says, “bring the offending part to me if the defect shows up again.” The foreman quickly withdraws.

Ten days later, when the defect occurs again, the foreman visits the manager’s office for a third time. “The defect was caused by play in a stopper on the machine,” he reports. “We’ve fixed it so the defect won’t show up again.”

Here’s what happened: The first two times, the foreman merely perceived that a defect had occurred. The third time, having understood what the manager had in mind, he thought about why the defect might have occurred.

Thus there are two positions we can take: merely perceiving – or thinking objectively about what we have perceived. Action comes about in response to cycling back and forth between perceiving and thinking, perceiving and thinking, and then finally, perceiving the solution. The more this cycle of perceiving and thinking is repeated, the closer we can approach the truth.

We must remember to ask ourselves, as we move from thought to action in the course of every day, whether we are merely perceiving or whether we have really thought about the matter in question.

Adapted from “The Sayings of Shigeo Shingo: Key Strategies for Plant Improvement” By Shigeo Shingo

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