Zen & Art of The Toyota Way

Posted on September 13, 2012 by

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Zen Garden by neilio, on Flickr
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This is a post which extracts a tiny bit of the wisdom (more to follow) contained in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig and merges it with the philosophy behind The Toyota Way.

She came trotting by with her watering pot between those two doors, going from the corridor to her office, and she said, “I hope you are teaching Quality to your students.”

This in a la-de-da, singsong voice of a lady in her final year before retirement about to water her plants.

That was the moment it all started.

That was the seed crystal.

The Narrator, p. 175, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Watch the videos below:

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was published in 1974 and uses a long motorcycle trip to frame a prolonged exploration of the world of ideas, about life and how best to live it. It references perspectives from Western and Eastern Civilizations as it explores the central question of the how to pursue technology so that human life is enriched rather than degraded.

In summary, how to come to terms with the mysteries of why we exist and how best to live.

The Toyota Way

The 14 Principles of the The Toyota Way is a management philosophy used by the Toyota corporation that includes the Toyota Production System. The main ideas are to base management decisions on a “philosophical sense of purpose” and think long term, to have a process for solving problems, to add value to the organization by developing its people, and to recognize that continuously solving root problems drives organizational learning.

Both persue how to achieve quality based on deep understanding of underlying philosophies and as such there are many parallels, if you look at them from the correct perspective. So my first tiny bit of wisdom is based around screws ….

According to Pirsig, at the cutting edge of experience is Quality. This is the mass of sensory perceptions that we take in. When we become stuck with a problem, we may be forced to re-evaluate our entire perception as our experience shifts due to a different level of understanding:

“Stuckness shouldn’t be avoided. It’s the psychic predecessor of all real understanding.”

Pirsig talks about a screw which has become sheared so that you cannot remove it when you are trying to fix your bike.

“Normally screws are so cheap and small and simple you think of them as unimportant. But now, as your Quality awareness becomes stronger, you realise that the screw actually has the same value as the whole motorcycle.”

In other words, break out of normal ways of thought and force us to come up with new ideas. We need to rethink things because the world is in a continual state of flux – Quality. We need to look deeper than merely on the surface of things and think about what they are really worth.

How do you attain these new experiences?

Go to the workplace and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (genchi genbutsu), while reflecting on what you have leanred (hansei) and practicing continuous improvement (kaizen). Attentive receptivity is to be cultivated. This practice is uncomfortable at first, but with practice and with successful experiences of what this attentive receptivity brings, it becomes an accepted and welcome modality leading to useful results.

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Posted in: Books, Quality