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For your edification and entertainment.

The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change

Mitch Dorger, EMBA

A Book Review by Gail Schaper-Gordon, Ph.D.

This is another one of those great little books packaged as a personal leadership fable and then followed up with a summary of the messages and lessons within the fable.

May introduces us to the message of his book — the concept of shibumi — with the following:

“There are times in life when if fortunate we experience a moment of utter clarity. We feel wide awake and connected and balanced: everything makes sense, we know exactly who we are, what we want and why we’re here. In that moment, be it one blink or a thousand, our effectiveness is maximal. And yet our actions seem minimal, effortless even, and the experience is consummately satisfying.”

Shibumi is a Japanese word for this experience.

The parable is about Andy, a manager in the customer service call center of Mega Box Electronics. Andy’s family security and lifestyle in his suburban community was threatened when the call center was moved out of the country and he was laid off.

May uses fictional events in the parable to reveal philosophies, principles, and practices that are valid and grounded in both ancient Eastern philosophy and current Western neuroscience. The point of his tale is to provide hope and a practical guide for each of us to achieve our own personal shibumi.

The parable suggests that the crisis and changes we have experienced with the recession also provide us with the opportunity to find a better personal path for our lives. The Shibumi Strategy provides hansei (reflection) questions and kata (routine exercises) for addressing questions to help us “awaken, and … gain a degree of clarity never before experienced.”

The routine, key practices of the shibumi strategy are:

  • Genchi genbutsu (observation)
  • Hoshin (goal alignment)
  • Kaizen (continuous improvement)
  • Hansei (reflection)

If you’re exhausted and feel that you’ve been working too hard for limited results, I suggest that you set aside a quiet afternoon and read this little book. It can help you begin the search back toward your own path to make the most of what you have to offer the world.

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