A Lean Carol
Well, it’s time for my annual Christmas Blog! With apologies to Charles Dickens, here is my adapted version of his “Ghost Story of Christmas” (first published in 1843).
Stave 1: Muda’s Ghost
The workers at the Shusendo & Muda Company are very busy being highly productive. The boss, Ebenezer Shusendo, only gives performance bonuses based on individual productivity so everyone works as hard as they can regardless of what the customers want. Shusendo’s nephew, Eiji, stops by to wish him a “Lean Christmas!” but Shusendo dismisses him with “Bah, Humbug!” The clerk, Taiichi, knows there is a better way to approach things and vows to “keep Lean in my heart, all the year long!” After intense negotiating, Taiichi is allowed to take Christmas day off, which confirms Shusendo’s opinion that his employees just don’t work hard enough.
When Shusendo returns home, he starts to see all kinds of apparitions – movement of product in a continuous flow, loud ringing of andon signals, and pictures in his rooms turning into Value Stream Maps. The ghost of Muda visits him, and warns that if he doesn’t mend his ways, his company will continue to show decreasing profits. All of his workers will leave and his company will fold. He will walk the earth in misery, bearing the burden of waste that he could have eliminated in his processes. His only chance of redemption is to listen to three spirits who will visit him that night.
Stave 2: The First of the Three Spirits
The Ghost of Lean Past, Henry Ford, visits Shusendo and takes him on a journey to his childhood. Shusendo is shown a happy party given by his first employer, who shared profits with his workers. He is reminded of his first love, Puriti, and how she left him because he was too busy doing rework at his company. They visit Frederick Winslow Taylor and see him writing “The Principles of Scientific Management;” and they take a tour of the Rouge plant in its heyday in Dearborn Michigan. Finally, they end up at the Toyota Automatic Loom Works. Furious at being shown the opportunities that were missed to make a huge improvement in his own company, Shusendo gets angry at the spirit only to find that he has been returned to his own bed.
Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
The Ghost of Lean Present, Genichi Taguchi, shows Shusendo busy factories and organizations in the modern day. Many companies are incorporating lean principles into their operations, and sharing the least-waste way. They value their employees as creators of value for their customers, and try to make sure that there is flow in each step. Shusendo sees the huge impact that pull systems have, and becomes interested in lean concepts. They watch his clerk Taiichi (who tries to use Lean tools when his boss isn’t watching) at Christmas dinner with his family, including Tiny Toyoda, who has carpal-tunnel syndrome from unnecessary processing. Even though many people are trying to become lean, the Ghost shows Shusendo two pitiful workers huddled under his robes who personify the major causes of poor production, Mura (unevenness) and Muri (unnecessary work). As the bell strikes twelve midnight, the Ghost vanishes.
Stave 4: The Last of the Three Spirits
The Ghost of Lean Yet to Come arrives as a shadowy figure, robed in black, who points grimly at all of the waste present in production processes all over the world. The Ghost shows Shusendo’s clerk Taiichi mourning the loss of his son, Tiny Toyoda. Even worse is the scene of the Global Takeover Company in the process of purchasing what’s left of Shusendo & Muda, only to liquidate it for a quick profit. In great fear over this possible future, Shusendo begs the Ghost to send him back so he can change everything for the better. Weeping, he wakes to find that it is Christmas morning and he has been allowed to return to his former life.
Stave 5: The End of It
Shusendo is overjoyed to mend his ways. He sends his clerk Taiichi a roast goose “just in time” for Christmas dinner, and promises to implement Lean in his company. He surprises everyone with his new-found respect for people, and reduces overprocessing so Tiny Toyoda doesn’t need to wear his wrist braces any more. He earns a reputation for incorporating the spirit and principles of lean, in addition to utilizing lean tools and concepts. He even changes his name to Sensei Soushou.
To quote from the end of the story: “He had no further dealings with the Spirits, but lived upon the Lean Principle, ever afterwards, and it was always said of him, that he knew how to eliminate waste, if anyone alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Toyoda observed, Learn To See, Every One!”
Happy holidays to all!