Monday, December 21, 2015

On Labels – ‘Expert, Master, Sensei’ and the like

By Pascal Dennis

My friend and colleague Mark Graban, always astute, has highlighted an important issue for Lean thinkers.

Is it right and proper to call one’s self an ‘expert, master or sensei’?

In a word – no.

It's important in my view to recognize that we humans are sly, lazy, imperfect beings. (At least this one is.)

Granting one's self such a label usually means we've stopped learning.

My best Toyota senseis had no trouble saying, "I don't know." They'd run experiments and study the results to fill in their knowledge gaps, of course.

But they never put on airs, and never granted themselves lofty titles.

I remember Mr. Hayashi, our TMMC OMCD sensei, sitting at the picnic tables by the production line, quietly doodling in his notebook.

He was 75 years old at the time, and one of Toyota’s most senior and respected senseis.

"What are you doing, sensei?" I asked.

"Working on a problem,” he smiled. “It's eluded me for a long time. But I think I’m getting somewhere!”

Still humble and open at the age of 75.

Needless to say, Mr. Hayashi would never dream of calling himself an expert!

Best regards,


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