I had been contemplating writing on lean management. However, the untold tales from my European adventures took precedence. As a result, I’ve decided to intertwine them both.

From the cobblestone streets of Vilnius to the mesmerizing landscapes of the countryside, Lithuania unfolded before my family and me like a page from a fairy tale. Each corner we turned seemed to beckon us into a pristine world of magic and wonder, a sensation akin to being Cinderella. This magical journey wasn’t triggered by a fairy godmother’s touch but by an unexpected twist in our European itinerary.

It all began with an invitation to the Baltic ENT Congress. Our friends Donata, Darius, Vaida, and Viva, who were pivotal figures in the organization, provided the golden ticket that extended our European escapade by another six days. The congress wasn’t merely an academic endeavour. It promised cultural dives, activities, and adventures chalked out to the minutest detail.

The most vivid memory of our Lithuanian adventure was our canoeing journey on the Zaimena River. Our journey from Vilnius city to the canoeing starting point spanned an hour. But the captivating countryside vistas made every fleeting moment of the journey feel like a reward. The picturesque scenes that flashed by our windows, from idyllic farmhouses to verdant meadows, rendered the ride an experience in itself.

Upon arrival, makeshift tents awaited us, where we swapped our travel attire for sportier outfits, ready to conquer the waters. The venue bustled with energy, with numerous canoes and paddles up for rent, and helpful locals assisting novices and enthusiasts alike to embark on their waterborne adventure.

Through the years, my association with individuals from the information technology sector has ingrained in me concepts like system, agile, and design thinking processes. This time, I brought with me the nuances of lean thinking. It’s easy to get muddled when deciding which process to adopt. But worry not! I plan to elucidate my method of integrating these processes in my upcoming blogs.

The journey began in Kaltanenai and was destined to culminate in the serene Buidvydas Lake. The organizers left no stone unturned to ensure our safety. Each of us visitors was paired with a local otorhinolaryngologist to be our canoeing partner. Our family’s guide was Darius, who steered us with the precision and finesse of a seasoned navigator. While  my son paired up with a Ukrainian otolaryngologist, my spirited daughter with Dr. Ernesta, and my wife had the honour of teaming up with the Chief of ENT and Congress chair, Prof. Lesinskas himself. I was accompanied by my long-time friend Vaida, who despite being in the third trimester of her pregnancy, she took the lead, guiding and instructing me in the art of canoeing as if she had been doing it her entire life.

Shailashri with Prof. Lesinskas.

Navigating the serene waters, the canoeing experience mirrored the principles of lean management. Every paddle stroke and every manoeuvre emphasized the importance of teamwork, planning, and adaptability.

The adventure had its share of surprises, the most prominent being my wife Shaila’s participation. Historically wary of water and its depths, her transformation, donning a life jacket and wielding paddles, was nothing short of astounding. My children, mirroring her apprehensions in the past, too was a revelation.

As we began our journey on the Zaimena River, nature greeted us in its unique ways. Duck families meandered alongside, their quacks providing a harmonious soundtrack to our adventure. The river, flanked by resplendent flora and fauna, was a testament to Lithuania’s untouched beauty. On closer observation, small wooden shelters dangled from trees, possibly homes to birds or sanctuary for honeybees.

Wooden shelters for birds and honey bee.

Midway, we took a breather. An idyllic spot served as our pit stop, complete with makeshift tents for bio-breaks. This interlude was sweetened with authentic Lithuanian snacks. The scenic backdrop, combined with our high spirits, was the perfect setting for candid selfies and group photographs.

Family group photograph at pit stop.

While the serene beauty of Lithuania and the rhythmic strokes of our paddles were hypnotic, the journey had its share of thrills. Our children, bubbling with enthusiasm, were always a paddle ahead. Their zeal, however, got the better of them. Instead of following the designated route to Buidvydas Lake, they were carried away by the river’s flow. Their sudden disappearance around a river bend ushered in a few moments of anxious anticipation for the rest of us. But Darius, ever the hero, didn’t hesitate. He paddled upstream, against the formidable current, and managed to bring them back. By the time they reached us, their exhaustion was palpable, but our collective sigh of relief was louder.

Group photo go friends.

The end of our canoeing adventure was marked by the warm embrace of Lithuanian hospitality. A hearty meal, a rejuvenating sauna, and a soothing bubble bath awaited us, wrapping up a day that was adventurous yet enlightening.

Sumptuous Lunch at the end of Canoeing trip.

Looking back, the canoeing experience was more than just an activity; it was an embodiment of lean management principles. The need for teamwork, understanding the environment, meticulous planning, and continuous improvement were evident throughout our journey. Just as a canoe needs to be streamlined, balanced, and in harmony with its paddler, so does an organization aiming for efficiency and effectiveness.

Lithuania, with its blend of old-world charm and modern-day adventures, offered us memories we will cherish for a lifetime. Whether paddling down a river, navigating challenges, or understanding lean management, our Lithuanian escapade was an experience in learning, bonding, and growing.

Prof. Dr. Prahlada N.B

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