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  • Writer's picturehidet77


Muda. Waste. Non-value-adding activities that we must eliminate. Core thinking of TPS.

There is nothing wrong with the definitions.

Every time I go to the genba with the Gurus of TPS, I feel something that is not captured in those definitions.

The search reached a core philosophy in Buddhism called “śūnya.”

My understanding; the “Current state is not fixed. Instead, it is an interception. It's about how you see it.”

Looking at all “works” in such philosophy is what I felt from the gurus. Just because I defined something as value-adding, the Gurus kept asking, “it that the truth?”


This is not TPS terminology. It is used daily in Japan. We apply 無駄 as the symbol.

無 = means none, empty, does not exist

駄 = means fare, a horse carrying a luggage

So, a muda is a horse that does not carry any luggage that creates money, which means non-value-adding activities. That’s how I learned in daily life.

The TPS book did not use this symbol. The book used むだ or ムダ, the Japanese alphabet that only describes the sound. When Toyota does this, there is a specific meaning—some reason behind which makes people think. Why did they not use 無駄?

While investigating the word, I learned that the use of 無駄 is incorrect. The symbols were used because they sounded similar to the original word. To support this understanding, the dictionary points out that the Japanese use another symbol for Muda.

徒 = Empty-handed, not doing anything, useless

Using two types of symbols for a word is strange. This shouldn’t happen. The only reason why this did happen for Muda is that when the Japanese misunderstood the original word, we found other symbols that sounded the same.

The original word is “Muna.”

The symbol is 空.

Muna (空) means sky or empty.

But in Buddhism, this means much more.

The word is the translation of the concept “śūnya.” It is one of the core Buddhism concepts and is complicated to understand. There are many versions of understanding. My understanding is the following;

“The Current state is not fixed. Instead, it is an interception. It's about how you see it.”

An example of such is “Sky.”

Is the sky empty or filled? For some, it looks empty. For some, it is filled. Depending on your condition, your opinion can change. Nothing is permanently or absolutely defined. We should not see things with bias.

This Buddhist philosophy matched my understanding of how my coaches saw the "work." They see all work as “Muna.” They don’t think that just because they defined something as “value-add” does not mean it is permanent. They don’t treat that this is absolutely right. They see that at their current understanding, it looks like “value-add,” but as they develop more, it could change. This continuous learning and challenge make these Gurus hard to understand. “Why did he change his mind?” I might get puzzled by the change, but as you learn to see the work in this Buddhism philosophy, no absolute definition of “value-add” makes sense.

Final TPS catch.

I have been saying that “Value-add” can become Muda, but not the other way around. Don’t try that. If you do, you will learn that a Buddha can become a demon quickly.

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