We know that Lean is both a systematic method for improving an organization, but it’s also a wordview – the lens by which we see and understand the world. I want to highlight a phrase that describes one aspect of the Lean worldview quite well: Zen Wa Isoge.
Zen Wa Isoge (善は急げ). In other words, if It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Promptly.
Even more, the phrase in kanji (read zen) means “good, goodness, right, virtue” and (read isoge) which is the imperative form of the verb (read isogu) meaning “to hurry, to rush, to hasten, to make something happen sooner”.
Yes, Hurry and do the good thing.
This is not unlike Hoshin Kanri, where the organization deliberates carefully, but then executes very quickly.
Additionally, according to Japanese linguist, Zen Wa Isoge comes from the old saying, “Zen Wa Isoge, Aku Wa Nobeyo” which means, “Hurry and do the good, put off doing the bad.”
The second part of this saying is usually omitted nowadays, and the first part is used to mean, “Hurry up and do what you have to do.” “Strike while the iron is hot” is another way to think of the phrase.
From the perspective of Lean, we have a bias for action, learning, and experimentation. For us, Zen Wa Isoge describes our bias for doing.