When I read a novel or watch a film at Christmas, I am horrified at how little attention is paid to the 8 Lean Wastes. I am sure the stories would be much improved if only the authors had completed their Green belt training.

You’ll doubtless already be familiar with the 8 Wastes, but here they are anyway, just for completeness:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non value added – additional operations
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Employee Talent

So let’s take a look at some well-known festive tales, starting with A Christmas Carol from the man who many blame for creating the modern view of Christmas, Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.

ghostsWell, that’s a Defect right off – any half-decent ghost would have scared Scrooge out of his miserly ways first time, so removing the need for rework by two further ghosts; or if the first visit was effective, it’s a waste of Overprocessing (additional operations) and we could reduce the ghost headcount by two-thirds.

At least the waste of Bob Cratchit’s Employee Talent is eventually addressed when Scrooge finally gives him a pay rise.

Next, in the closing scenes of Miracle on 34th Street the US Postal Service discovers a way to offload all its undelivered mail addressed to Santa Claus when it gets delivered to Kris Kringle’s formal commitment hearing. Inventory! Not to mention all that Waiting by all the children to see Santa Claus earlier in the film: shouldn’t Macy’s have applied Little’s Law to reduce Inventory and queuing time?

It’s a Wonderful Life used to be my favourite Christmas movie, but I don’t get the same enjoyment from it since I read The Toyota Way. Final scene: George Bailey (James Stewart) needs $8,000 to replace the Building & Loan money lost by Uncle Billy, but the townsfolk club together to find over $25,000. Have they never heard of Overproduction?

And The Snowman? If the objective is to meet Father Christmas and get a scarf, most of the story is Transportation waste (all that flying around the countryside) and Waiting (unless you consider the snowmen’s party to be value adding).

parentsFinally, let’s consider Santa Claus himself. His entire distribution model is clearly outdated and is full of Transportation waste. Clearly, he needs to change to a Lean supply chain model, using local distribution hubs (let’s call them ‘parents’) to get the presents to the customer (‘children’) without the need for a herd of reindeer (‘fixed costs’).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this light-hearted look at Christmas from a Lean perspective. What wastes can you spot in your own favourite story? 

Let us know in the comments box.