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Refined skill forms a beautiful line.

Refined skill forms a beautiful line.

A concept that I thought of as I understood standardized work. Then I ran into a word called “Dousen(動線),” which was used by a former Toyota mechanic. But I don’t think this is unique thinking, rather very universal thinking necessary to master a skill.

I read this article by Masahiko Hara, who used to work as a mechanic at Toyota and then started his own web marketing company. He mentions that his business uses what he learned from Toyota and eliminates waste inside office work.

In one episode, he mentioned that he was coached to be constantly conscious of the 動線 (Dousen).


It is a bit strange word to use. It usually means “traffic flow inside a city or a building.” I used this word when I was designing a factory. How will the people and materials move, and where will I have a traffic jam? How can I avoid such traffic jams, so the flow becomes consistent? Those were the context of how I used the word. But is this something for a mechanic to “always be conscious”?

Then I recalled something I was coached on. Motion is one of the waste. We conduct motion Kaizen. The motion refines. As the motion refines, it starts to form a line that might not be visible but something that exists. Skills are the same. Perfected skills seem to create a line that masters can feel. The word “Dousen(動線)” means movement (動)line(線).

The more I think about this concept, I recognize that this is not just a TPS thing. It is something universal—for example, dances. Different cultures have different dances. Yet, many of those seem to have a line that the dancers create. The line might be made by hand, leg, head, formation, or other things. But there is some line where the master dancer perfects and forms. Unless the observer understands where the line is, we don’t necessarily understand the dance’s intent. And as we learn, we share the sense behind the word “beautiful.”

A similar line exists in sports skills. Swing, jump, run, pass or shoot. Different sports have different lines formed by different things. Yet, going back to the original episode, we will not be aware of the skills unless we are always conscious of the Dousen. A slight difference in the line is a hint toward a new skill.

These sensations of dances and sports are similar to what my coach told me regarding standardized work. When he observed an excellent standardized work, he would comment, “beautiful.” He didn’t use efficient or productive, which is strange. Using an artistic phrase might not be a good idea in the scientific world. Yet, it is human nature to praise a high-skill or refined motion as beautiful. In some way, because he used an artistic word, we can continuously improve. On the other hand, using an artistic expression can become challenging to understand fully.

An essential step in learning a skill is recognizing that such a line exists. Without such recognition, we might waste time copying non-essential motions. I don’t know if there is a name for such a concept. Until I learn, I will use the Dousen, movement line as something we must recognize.

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