Is Zen Your Cup Of
Incorporating New Ideas From an Age-Old Philosophy to
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
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
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
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
The Wholesome View of
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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"
This location provides an overview of Zen and Buddhism.
Topics range from history, concepts, discussions,
organizations and philosophies
October 2000 News for a