I had been dragged out from under the nice, warm blanket that was my maternity leave to take a one-day course on Lean.
It was the first time I would be leaving my bébé for over an hour. It was not that bad – just one day and then I could run back to her and enjoy 2 more months of cuddling and cocooning.
What is lean?
Lean is a Japanese principle of working to be more productive. Of course we can trust the Japanese to have come up with a great methodology to make the workplace a better place; it’s not like they are internationally renowned for having suffered a lot of work-related suicides. (Although, fair enough, those numbers have been slightly decreasing in the last few years.)
Anyways, this fantastic system is designed to help prevent any kind of waste: time-waste, rework, overproduction, talent, stock… to name a few of the magical powers of Lean. I was ready to master this methodology coming from the East, coming from the empire Reiwa, signifying order and harmony. Because for us westerners, everything that is Japanese has an exquisite taste of zen, of aesthetic purity.
However, the reality is that the Japanese culture is overly oppressing and if us westerners had to follow all the societal rules of this democratic monarchy, we would all take a jump on the Shin- Koiwa line ( It is the line where there is the most suicides In Tokyo).
Anyways to be “lean” – yes because you become lean – you need to break down every process into “who does what” in order to create a wonderful value stream that will enable you to identify the bottlenecks, the points of wastage.
I will be honest, the results are quite interesting when it comes to complex processes – you get a high-level and detailed visibility of the operations thanks to this workflow.
Am I my job?
After having worked on this concept for a few weeks, I was climbing the stairs in my house when it suddenly struck me that I had begun picturing my home chores in terms of waste.
I stopped and asked myself the fateful question:
Am I becoming my job?
Level of drama queen: maximum.
Level of incomprehensiveness: 100%. Only fragments and key words were popping up in my brain, not leaving any place for full sentences and deep analysis of though. (As a reminder: level of drama queen: maximum!)
During my past lives in Asia (well, my seven years of work in Asia: Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore) my jobs did not define me.
When I was in Asia, Olivia, one of my best friends, once told me that I had a Kafkaesque approach towards work: I was just like Kafka, or like Eramus, who never held too high-ranking jobs, which gave them space to create. Indeed, my jobs did not stress me, therefore they allowed me to do much more important things: to travel, to write, to enjoy champagne-fuelled escapades.
I adored how Olivia had justified my comfortable careers in Asia and how she had ranked me intellectually as high as these geniuses had been. A lady must sometimes gracefully accept compliments although it is silently understood by both parties that there is no truth in them.
But with my current job, things are a bit different.
With my political and sociological background, I had always had a tendency to put people in boxes. Now I do that with everything. I have become too organized. My ambitions used to be poetic, not definable – I was in Kierkegaard’s aesthetic stage. But non, now my ambitions are not in touch with myself. They are summed up in a salary sheet.
Do jobs shape who you are ?
I look at my partner, who is a cardiologist; at my brother, who is a medical specialist as well, and at my engineer friends. Their jobs have shaped them in a beautiful way: they need to listen deeply to the problem in order to find a remedy for it.
Their problem-solving skills allow them to apprehend life with a scientific rationality that will always lead to a positive answer. They have a purpose; they help society; they elevate the goodness of it.
They are the very opposite of corporate lawyers who are paid to fixate upon problems. Yes, they too need to find solutions, but the difference lies in the fact that they are paid to defend neither the oppressor nor the sufferer, but an inanimate machine: the enterprise. They will slyly but surely need to find the detail, the flaw that will allow the organisation to become more powerful and give more wealth to a handful of privileged men, and let’s face it, the glass window still exists. Except perhaps in the HR department -my god this department is full of ladies!
What have I become?
I now envision my life as an Excel sheet filled with deadlines, wrong formulas, a few typos here and there, and loads of boxes that leave no room for freedom. Mistakes are moderately accepted, but for sure not creativity.
Truth be told, I have become an outstandingly mediocre blasé employee who now uses Lean to be more productive as it is part of my KPIs, while putting the family’s clothes in the washing machine and changing diapers …Because I now treat my family as if they were my clients…
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