The Gap Between Knowing and Doing

The president of a GE business unit told me about how his manufacturing plant won an award GE calls “Brilliant Factory” by implementing the principles called Lean Manufacturing or sometimes popularized as the Toyota Production System.

The goal of Lean is to eliminate waste. [aside—this is probably something we all need to do in our daily lives and our spiritual formation lives, wasted time, wasted money, wasted energy, wasted food…]

The foundation principle of Lean is respect for people. [aside—also something we need to do in our daily lives…]

I asked the president how his plant did it.

First, the plant manager took extensive training and a team was also sent for training.

Second, they had to change the culture in the plant.

I asked, how did they do that.

Well, the first time they took a Gemba walk—take a team through a part of the manufacturing process—the worker on the line led the walk. When the worker pointed out a problem area, the team immediately took corrective actions.

And then repeat.

In my now 20 years of researching, interviewing, and writing about things like this, I’ve run across many who know a lot about Lean. Doing is tough. What did the members of this team do? Built trust. They actually did what their training told them to do.

Is this something new to modern people?

Let’s look at a short letter written by James, the brother of Jesus. He pointed out 2,000 years ago (probably calling forth his memory of the Proverbs) that if all you are is what you know, then you have fallen short. Be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

Are you like me? You know too many people, and maybe me in an early stage of my life, who know way too much and do way too little?

Chair time with the Word is a great 15 minutes every day. But what about those other 900 minutes? What are we doing?

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