Thursday, 19 December 2013

Lean Methodology at Santa’s Workshop

Did you ever wonder how Santa was able to accomplish the feat of delivering all the gifts in one night with little or no complaints and clearly little overhead? He MUST be following a framework of some type. It is likely that the man in the red suit is following Lean methodology

While Santa is far from Lean himself his workshop operates as a result of efficient processes which minimize waste while delivering quality products on time and at minimal cost. While the origins of Lean are said to come from Toyota Production it is possible a fundamentally similar model was designed by Santa and his devoted team of elves.

While Lean is typically associated with manufacturing, it is being applied to other fields in an effort to improve efficiencies. St Nick already leveraging Lean for manufacturing has taken it to other facets of this delivery service.

The main focus for Lean is on delivering customer value while minimizing waste. In other words, doing more for less. Santa’s workshop achieves this in part by having an endless supply of elves at a minimal expense, gingerbread and candy canes I am told. Even his sled runs on reindeer power which only has stable and feed costs.

Santa, who has an unmatched understanding of his customer base, (you better watch out… you know the song) is able to focus his attention on his processes to constantly improve service delivery.  Santa can maximize value by looking at the big picture rather than the components that drive it such as teams, technology or assets.  As we all know Santa knows what questions to ask and this sometimes is more important the having all the right answers.

The North Pole workshop follows a five-step thought process to guide them through lean thinking.

Identify Value
Ask any kid what the value is on Christmas morning and I am sure you will get the point

Map it out  
Santa and his team have been through a few of these do they have had a chance to get the process done a few times to ensure the outcomes have value 

Create flow
Since Santa only has one night he has to eliminate any component of the flow that impedes delivery of gifts and thus value

The kids get the value in the morning (provided they were good) in the gifts they receive and full stockings. In other words we don’t assume to provide gifts toll everyone only that are good – thus the pull.

On Boxing Day Santa and team complete a post mortem of the night and make new process adjustments to minimize waste. As Santa puts it "It’s like wringing out the wash cloth a few times over to get it as dry as possible"

Granted there are going to be some challenges along the way….

One challenge is much like a double edged sword. You become more efficient when you discover more issues, so the process never has an end essentially. The commitment to this must be for the long haul so that there is sufficient time to make the improvements and to continue to drive out further areas of waste.

So, why did Santa implement a Lean methodology? Clearly he was looking to minimize costs. His location suggests that the real estate, while in a remote location provided the best value, the elves work for sugary treats. There is also the fact that there is no incoming cash flow. No kickbacks or endorsement deals for this outfit. If you were working for cookies and milk you might be inclined to be leaner as well.

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  1. Nice wording dear author but I thing this has become much necessary to include lean system or apply kaizen training for better management !

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