Saturday, April 7, 2012

Muda - Jesus Christ Cleans It Up

Taiichi Ohno, 1912 - 1990
In business management studies over the years, beginning with Taiichi Ohno, "muda" became a buzzword for eliminating waste from the enterprise.

Ohno was an executive for the Toyota Motor Company. He was the chief architect of Toyota’s mission, vision and strategy after World War II. Ohno recognized that competing with Ford, GM and Chrysler by applying the principles of mass production would be impossible.

Tiny Toyota was producing fewer cars each year than Ford was each day, so Ohno focused on intimately understanding what customers want and were willing to pay for and then eliminated everything else.

Muda is the Japanese equivalent of "waste" in English, and the term stuck. Books, blogs, management studies and countless symposia have been sponsored and executed worldwide based upon his pioneering concepts. As Americans watched, Toyota slowly but surely overtook its "Big 3" counterparts, management experts began to take notice, and men like James Womack and Daniel Jones in the early 1980s began writing in earnest about the Toyota phenomenon.

The gospel equivalent is easy to illustrate. "More or less" is the Lord's way of reminding us of the precision with which He has laid out the path to salvation for each of us. It is "straight (sometimes strait) and narrow." On either side of the path - too much or too little - there is danger.

Jesus Christ was the premortal Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. He came in the meridian of time to take upon Himself a body of flesh, blood and bones like ours. He was the foreordained Only Begotten Son of the Father. He is and will yet be the Promised Messiah, who will visit the earth again, this time as the glorified and resurrected Being destined to rule and reign up the earth during the Millennium and beyond.

In His role as Savior and Redeemer, He sacrificed Himself as a ransom to pay the price justice demands from each of us whose lives are constantly filled to varying degrees with muda. As we repent and give all our muda to Him, we are cleansed, "leaned out," and we become more productive

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
In the last General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf presented another classic address, this one titled "The Merciful Obtain Mercy."

In short, it was a two-word exegesis: STOP IT! Said he: "This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!" 

Under the heading of today's post, all of it and more is muda. He even suggested some bumper sticker wisdom, when he observed, "It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, 'Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.'”

When we come unto Christ and obtain mercy, our charge is then to spread it around liberally to everyone else. Those who have obtained mercy through their own repentance process, are in a much better position to extend it to others, and we are reminded by President Uchtdorf that we receive no better than we give. How can we be expected to receive mercy at the judgement seat someday, when we refuse to treat others mercifully?

There is a high gospel standard expected of disciples: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive,” but then He said, “… of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10).

Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Of course.

One of the interesting teachings of applying lean principles to the manufacturing process is this: Perfection is sought, but discouraged. As perfection is approached by eliminating waste, lean proponents will advocate going back and starting again to make further improvements to prevent complacency and the false premise that perfection has been obtained, because while perfection is desirable it can be self-deceiving.

And so it is with us. By mentally filling out our checklists and satisfying ourselves that we are near-perfect in our performance in this or that category, we deceive ourselves. There is always room for improvement, and we must constantly guard against believing all is well.

When it comes to removing muda, each of us still has a lot of work to do. And when it comes to the Perfect Practitioner who removes it best, we need look no further than the Redeemer of Israel.

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