How Buddhism can help you adopt an agile mindset and learn to be lean

Door Patrick Verheij

By now we all (should) know that agile is all about uncovering new ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.\r\n\r\nTo make the uncovering of those great new ways possible, we shorten feedback loops, inspect and adapt, collaborate and learn, plan-do-check-act, or any other variation on the theme of continuous improvement.\r\n\r\nThere you go. Now stay with me for a bit while we explore a bit of Buddhism.\r\n\r\nBuddists practice meditation. It was Thich Nhat Hanh who taught me that meditation isn’t about sitting and getting a sore ass while doing so.\r\n

Meditation actually is all about stopping and then looking deeply.

\r\nBuddists train themself to step into the present moment, the only moment which truly exists and where happiness can be found. They stop to actually experience that present moment by entering a meditative state. Sitting is not even required!\r\n\r\nThey know that when you stop and quiet your mind, you will start seeing things deeply. It will come automatically as a result from stopping. Buddhists teach us that stopping and looking deeply are therefore actually one.\r\n\r\nStopping and looking deeply surely helped me on many occasions so far and it keeps helping me to see things clearly and make sense from many a complex situation I encounter in my professional career. It helps me see paths and solutions which others, who are still running around (usually in circles), often can’t see yet.\r\n\r\nIt’s actually my secret. So now you know it too :-)\r\n\r\nBy the way…doesn’t this stopping stuff remind you of something?\r\n\r\nSomething Toyota-ish perhaps?\r\n\r\nJidoka?\r\n\r\nAh yes: Stop the line! Don’t pass defects on! Improve on the spot! TPS! Lean!\r\n\r\nIt’s basically the same as Buddhists do in meditation: stop whatever you’re doing and look deeply. Explore, understand what happened, act appropriately, then continue. And of course, repeat whenever necessary.\r\n\r\nLearning the practice of what I’d like to call “professional meditation” is essential for anyone who wishes to call himself a “craftsman” or “expert”. Especially in an agile or lean context where things thrive due to appropriate feedback and thorough understanding of that feedback.\r\n\r\nSo does that mean you need to start practicing meditation?\r\n\r\nI believe it does. And if you still believe that has anything to do with sitting on your rear end, I invite you to stop and look deeply at what meditation is actually all about :-)\r\n\r\n—\r\n\r\nYou may find wisdom in Thich Nhat Hanh’s books “Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm”, “You Are Here”, and “The Miracle of Mindfulness”. I wholeheartedly recommend any of his other books.

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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