Lean, Green, and God


    BeliefWatch: God Is Green – Newsweek Beliefs – MSNBC.com

    This article struck me today, not exactly like a lightning bolt from the sky, but it struck me.

    The Newsweek article talks about a growing movement among a number of churches, synagogues, and mosques to be more environmentally conscious and “green.”

    “Last year, Prestonwood Baptist Church, a conservative megachurch in Plano, Texas, enlisted the help of Energy Education, Inc. to help with its efficiency problem. Prestonwood, which caters to a Sunday crowd of 26,000, has four separate buildings and a million square feet of usable space. Its monthly utility bill was $250,000. “The Bible says, ‘Let nothing be wasted',” explains Mike Buster, Prestonwood's executive pastor. “The Bible commands us to be good stewards of all of our resources. To be able to save money and use it for ministry and missions—I was very concerned with that.” Seven months into the program—which consists of training staff to turn off lights and computers and rearranging program schedules to maximize efficient use of buildings—the church has saved nearly half a million dollars.”

    This is probably the first time religion has come up here on the Lean Blog. It's one of those topics you don't bring up at a polite dinner party right? When we think of waste reduction as a core concept in the Lean approach, that's something that can apply to everybody, even a church (or a building used by any faith).

    Now the article isn't calling this a “Lean” initiative. But who knows if it was inspired locally at a church, synagogue, or mosque by someone who was exposed to Lean concepts at work? Or maybe because some Lean concepts can just seem like common sense. “Don't waste resources” – good words to go by if you call that “Lean” or not. Mom and Dad used to say “turn the lights off when you're not in the room.”

    My headline comes from a combination of things I've seen over time. Toyota has been linking Lean and the Toyota Production System to goals of environmental stewardship, “Lean and Green” some call it. Lean “zealots” often get branded with terms and phrases that invoke religion (not always in a positive way).

    Anyway, it's interesting to me to see what might be a confluence of these worlds: Lean, environmental protection, and religion. I'm not a radical environmentalist, to say the least, nor am I trying to convert anyone to any particular religious faith. Anyone who knows me would probably say I'm more passionate about Lean. People in healthcare (hospitals are often faith-based), often refer to their work as a “calling.” The same might be said about Lean??

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. Speaking of God. He just rained on us here in Keller, eh Mark? 3 kids and 2 dogs plus mom and dad in the closet is not so fun! Anyhow, interesting post Mark. I know of a certain parish in Keller that may benefit from this message. Perhaps I will forward it on! Good stuff.

    2. I posted an article on lean and the environment link

      There’s also a link to the US EPA “lean and the envrironment toolkit” 2006.

    3. I think the link comes from the fact that Lean, Enviromentalism and religious thoughts all have a small number of fundamental principles from which a large base of implementations follow. Each emphasize care, discipline and behavior modifications. So, a person embracing one area can embrace one of the others without a huge mental jump.


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