Doing the Right Thing | Christian Leanings

In his column from February 12, 2010 John Shook cited Jeffrey Liker’s highlighting of Toyota’s directive to their management to “do the right thing” in The Toyota Way.  Liker recalls his discussion with Jim Press, former President of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.“Every person I have talked to has a sense of purpose greater than earning a paycheck.  They feel a greater sense of mission for the company and can distinguish right from wrong with regard to that mission.  They have learned from their (mentors) and the message is consistent:  Do the right thing for the company and for society as a whole.”Recent history showed us that although Toyota espouses this kind of thinking, they are fallible, as we saw with the quality problems that surfaced last year.

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Akio Toyoda’s admission that they put their mission to become the biggest auto manufacturer over the development of their people, thereby leading to their quality problems, was the equivalent of going to confession, only in front of millions of people.  Nevertheless, that is what they strive toward – to “do the right thing.”In Matthew 12: 3-6, when confronted by the Pharisees for eating grain from a wheat field on a Sabbath because they were hungry, Jesus answers them.“Have you never read what David did that time when he and his men were hungry?  He went into the house of God, and he and his men ate the bread offered to God, even though it was against the Law for them to eat it – only the priests were allowed to eat that bread.  Or have you not read in the Law of Moses that every Sabbath the priests in the Temple actually break the Sabbath law, yet they are not guilty?”In verse 11 He is even more clear.  In this case Jesus is in a synagogue where there was a man with a paralyzed hand.

They asked Him if it was against the Law to heal on the Sabbath.  Jesus answered them,“…What if one of you has a sheep and it falls into a deep hole on the Sabbath?  Will he not take hold of it and lift it out?  And a man is worth much more than a sheep!  So then, our Law does allow us to help someone on the Sabbath.”Jesus then heals the man’s hand, at which point the Pharisees leave and made plans to kill Him.  Those of you who have ever found yourselves shutting down a production process that was producing defective goods much to the disapproval of production personnel can relate to these sentiments.

What I like about Jesus’ perspective is the freedom in it.  He is flat out telling us to do what is in the best interest of people and ourselves regardless of what any law or policy seems to be telling us.  To me, that is liberating.  He wants us to think for ourselves, to ask ourselves, “In this situation, based on what Jesus has taught me, what is the best decision?”  Or, like the popular wristbands say, “WWJD?”  Or, “What Would Jesus Do?”Over 20 years ago when interviewing for an administrative position at a small Christian college I was asked, “Do you believe in policy over people or people over policy?”  I answered, “Policy is meant to serve the peoples’ best interest, and if it doesn’t do that, it needs to be changed, and in any special situation where breaking a policy would be in a student’s best interest but not be unreasonably harmful to others, I would break that policy.”  I didn’t get the job.

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I probably wouldn’t have been a good fit anyway.Jesus constantly challenges us to think for ourselves (a form of respect) and to reflect (hansei, for those of you who are into the Japanese words) – two key aspects of lean, and sometimes this leads to conflict.  In fact, I sometimes have “healthy debates” with my Christian friends over the interpretation of scripture.  I love these discussions because I learn from them.

My perspective is much more along the historical/critical method, which tries to understand scripture in the context of the times and culture in which it was written.  A former pastor of mine called this, not too fondly, the “egghead method” of understanding scripture.  (Yes, we’re still friends; even golf buddies).  Regardless of your preferred method of understanding scripture, I think the key is to keep learning about your faith, and learning from the perspectives of others.  Heck, I’m still learning about the mysteries of the Trinity.  I don’t know that I’ll ever completely get it, but I’ll keep trying.So, as Christians and as lean thinkers we are asked to do the right thing, and to think.  What instances can you think of when you felt the pull to do the right thing yet it seemed to be in conflict with a law or policy?  Was it a clear cut choice?  Was it hard for you?  What angles did you consider when making that choice?

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