ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - October 2000


Issue Highlight — In Praise of C-SPAN
- Peter Block explains how supporting and viewing more media like C-SPAN, free of interpretation and corporate meddling, could provide an answer to the commercialized, unintellectual broadcasting that captures most of our attention.

Is Zen Your Cup Of Tea?
Incorporating New Ideas From an Age-Old Philosophy to Improve Performance

As you sit in your office on any ordinary morning, a sudden problem arises needing immediate attention. After associates knock your door down screaming about the problem, you all sit around and discuss the next step. Brainstorming provides possible solutions, but the clouds of past experience set in. What did you do last time? How did it work? You become trapped in favored ways of thinking. You have fallen into a downward spiral of logic and analysis.
  However, as Zen philosophy teaches us, you cannot let the system choke away your intuition. That is the key to successful problem solving. You have to empty your mind before you can receive new information. When your mind reaches equilibrium, you can go with your gut reaction. It is the simplest answer, and often the correct one.
 Read on to find out how the Zen philosophy of the East can help you and your organization better react to problems in the workplace.

  A man goes to visit a Zen master with a load of questions and arguments. While the man bombards the master with his inquiries, the master pours tea for his visitor. As the visitor continues with his questions, the master continues to fill the cup with tea until it starts to overflow. To the panicked guest, the master says, "If your mind is already filled like this, how can there be room for you to learn?

 To Dev Raheja, president of Design for Competitiveness Inc., Laurel, Md., author of "Zen and the Art of Breakthrough Quality Management" and Zen student, this story answers all of the questions to the confusions of life and work-you have to empty your mind before you can receive new information.

  Through Raheja's personal study of Eastern philosophy and more than 30 years experience as a leader in product assurance technologies, he developed a philosophy of his own: There is more to quality than quality. Every person holds the power to use their intuitive logic to arrive at solutions effortlessly and to view quality through a wholesome approach.

There is More to Quality Than Quality

  "Solution first, problem later is the most appropriate Zen understanding that can be applied to quality management," according to Raheja.

  "The closest meaning that most people can comprehend," Raheja continues, "is that a comprehensive solution appears instantly as soon as the cause of the problem arises, when the mind is in a state of equanimity, (unbiased action with the mind in equilibrium). As soon as the problem arises, the mind moves. The solution is effortless because the mind is capable of high intelligence. There is no analysis. It is not logical thinking. It is intuitive intelligence, which is inherent in us. We just have to open ourselves to such possibilities."
Intuitive logic tells us that the answer is less complex than the entire picture. Zen goes beyond logic, to intuition. Logic solutions are limited because the fear of non-conforming is attached to it. The freedom to think is limited. Intuitive solutions are unlimited. The intuitive mind works from nothingness-pure mind-and therefore knows no fear. The solution comes from your heart rather than analysis.

  Raheja uses the example of a product-development team at an automotive company. A plastic panel required a conductive surface. The designers found it cheaper to add zinc plating to it rather than make the whole panel from a metal. This design resulted in enormous warranty failure costs because the zinc plating was peeling off. The team tried to find the best way to control the zinc plating parameters so that it would not peel.
Later the group asked for opinions in a technical review. A young engineer, a recent college graduate, asked, "Can we buy a conductive plastic so we don't even have to use zinc plating?" This response came out naturally without any analysis. His solution turned out to be the best. The old part cost was $1.49. The new cost was only 40 cents. The annual saving was at least $1 million.

  This is a prime example of preventing the quality problem and getting the highest quality simultaneously. It is also a good example of intuitive vs. logical thinking. The group's logical thinking was limited to improving the plating process because they had already invested in the process. The young engineer was not limited to any process. The solution came without any effort.

The Wholesome View of Quality

  The Zen approach to quality management promotes developing wholesome requirements based on the needs of the customer, supplier, community and environment. Raheja explains wholesome as looking at the whole picture.

  According to Raheja, "To de-program unwholesome thinking, a company needs to practice and preach wholesome thinking. It involves the welfare of the whole company, the customer, anyone in the community affected by the product and even Mother Nature."

  Raheja stresses the quality tool, "Wholesome Requirement Analysis:" wholesome requirements based on the needs of the customer, supplier, community and environment, which are then critiqued for clarity and completeness.

  Richard Teerlink, president and CEO of Harley Davidson, advocates the wholesome approach not only to design, but to all the functions in any organization. He refers to this as "integration of all the functions, and meeting the needs of each stakeholder." At Harley Davidson, a stakeholder is anyone who has the power to shutdown the company. This includes customers, employees, suppliers and investors.

  Raheja states, "If you have a good design department, but a pathetic purchasing department, the quality is also going to be pathetic. If all departments are doing their functions in the interest of the whole, then there is no need for the quality control department. The bottom line is to follow the wholesome process genuinely, and the profits will automatically follow."

Hidden Values

  "Quality is more than meeting specifications," says Raheja. "A Zen proverb says, 'Life is like a flame exposed to the wind.' It is therefore subject to unusual conditions and should be flexible enough to adjust to the abnormalities of the wind."

  Consumers take many factors into consideration when preparing to make a purchase. Raheja finds value in making the product user-friendly, reducing the downtime for customers and making it safer.

  If your car radio has 30 buttons that you can't figure out how to use, your copier machine is in constant need of repairs or your baby monitor doesn't work properly, chances are you are not a satisfied customer. The chances of you buying again from that manufacturer are slim. The features, such as safety, maintainability, user-friendliness, adaptability and portability cannot be added later.

  States Raheja, "The hidden values result in customer loyalty. The best way to get a new customer is to keep the one you already have."

  "Quality is not doing things right. It is doing the right things right," notes Raheja. It is easy to get sucked into doing unwholesome things because humans tend to be emotional. Emotions can turn into mistakes. Mistakes turn into failures. Therefore, fixing day-to-day painful quality failures becomes a necessity. Fixing problems in Zen means processing emotions and converting your emotions into knowledge. Let past mistakes be part of the past and move on. Let go of the old thoughts and let new thoughts flow through you.

Cultivating the Quality Wisdom Culture

  Raheja follows three principles to cultivate a quality wisdom culture.

  The first principle of truthfulness, implies honesty of employees toward each other. Employees should not be afraid to report facts as they are. "We should not kill the messenger who brings bad news," says Raheja. "We should be thankful to the person who brings truth to us even if it hurts. This person is giving you a chance to clean up your bad karma."

  The second principle is compassion for fellow workers. If you develop an attitude to help fellow team members, the team will succeed. If the team succeeds, the company will succeed and everyone's job is secure. In showing compassion to others, we are compassionate to ourselves also.

  The third principle of endurance is complex. You have to maintain the ability to accommodate and help others for the good of the group. By reducing the pain of others, the team will grow.

  Phil Jackson, former NBA coach of the Chicago Bulls, had to convince superstar Michael Jordan to put the team before himself and to give up his ego. He encouraged selflessness in the interest of the team. As a result, their team won several championships.
As the aforementioned Zen master might have told his over-anxious guest, "To gain something, you have to give up something."

Zen on the Web
Check out these sites for more details on Zen.
This site focuses on Zen in daily life and discusses how Dogen brought Soto Zen to Japan. There are links to various texts, essays and a Q&A section.
This site features a quote of the day, means of sending Zen e-cards, a meditation link and a "Daily Zen Journal" subscription link.
This location provides an overview of Zen and Buddhism. Topics range from history, concepts, discussions, organizations and philosophies

October 2000 News for a Change Homepage

 In This Issue...
Love 'Em and Lead 'Em
Getting The Moose On The Table
Is Zen Your Cup Of Tea?
A Mariner's Tale

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Heard on the Street

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