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The Lean Guide to an Efficient and Sustainable Thanksgiving Holiday (From Jim G.)

As we all prepare to pace the aisles at our local grocery store, host friends and family (invited or not), or travel to them, Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on the past year and everything for which we are grateful. It's also a fitting moment to celebrate the glory and wondrousness of being something else: Lean.

You may have been thinking, "I can't wait to relax and get away from work for a few days," but why not take advantage of the time off to recharge and review some essential Lean principles?

Embracing a Lean Shopping Experience

At work, we know that being Customer value driven is the key to our success. So why not embrace the chance to be the Customer as you dodge carts, strollers, and crowded end-caps at your local grocer?

Create a Grocery Store “Lean waste walk” along with your list of ingredients. If a shelf seems to be empty, simply lean over to your stocking clerk and whisper, "No cranberry sauce -- I'm going to have to give you an F. But that cornflower apron looks lovely on you." (Remember, grocery stores depend on Customer Responsive Supply Chains too).

If a Mr. Mom with gravy packets spilling out of his cart cuts you off on the way to the half-hour checkout line, tap him on the shoulder and offer, "Looks like your cart could use some Kaizen." If he looks confused, simply add, "But your Speed-to-Market is commendable."

Preparing Your Lean Feast for Maximum Customer Value

When you get up at 6:00 a.m. to peel potatoes and prep pumpkin pie on Thursday, remember that as Lean Practitioners’ we must apply our Lean tools to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

· Since hosting a Thanksgiving meal involves team work, feel free to promote the concept of Just-in-Time by inviting your guests to contribute to the meal directly. If they hesitate when you ask them to bring the spinach salad, bottle of pinot, gluten-free dinner rolls, and vanilla gelato, simply say, "We like to Eliminate Waste in our home and we can eat Just-in-Time when the food arrives."

· We also should consider optimizing the production process. Consider a brief orientation for the chef on the basic principles of Quality Driven Management – Lean Waste Reduction. Remember, all processes should add value through the perspective of the customer. (Note: Before initiating the exercise a risk assessment should be completed to assure that adverse reactions from the chef do not result in threats of bodily harm.)

In order to maximize your cooking schedule, create a Turkey Day Value Stream map. Brief your friends and family on the Eight Forms of Waste. Once the Value Stream is created, review your progress and observe opportunities for process improvements. As the Lean Waste Reduction leader, make sure you assert yourself by showing them how the process is under control through your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), as validated by the Quality Steering Committee. (Remember, all KPIs must have a baseline of performance, so it is important to have multiple years of data before you begin this exercise. It's only Thursday, a week ahead of time, so you have plenty of time for research).

Your Lean Thanksgiving Meal: Quality, Creative Tension, and Continuous Improvement

After you have slaved in the kitchen, completely missed the game and the ABC family movie, been drilled by your mother on why you painted the living room that awful color, and finally sit down to eat, remember that Quality is the backbone of any Lean organization:

· When you notice that the mashed potatoes are still lumpy, suggest your grandmother be more aggressive with the masher. When she complains of wrist pain, simply remind her, "Quality isn't free, Grandma. How do you think Toyota became the market leader?"

When your cousin and your sister begin arguing about who really should have won on "Dancing with the Stars" last season, seize the moment and turn Creative Tension into a productive process:

· Suggest they put their energy toward doing dishes. "Let's Build Respect and Empower ourselves to achieve great results," you can say. If your cousin is offended, add, "A smile makes every job easier -- remember your Performance Balanced Score Card."

If your father-in-law won't stop about his back pain, recommend a few ways to make incremental changes that lead to continuous improvement:

· As a Barcalounger “Test Pilot” recommend he contribute to the enjoyment of the evening by going out back to retrieve more firewood. "The bigger logs on the top will burn longer - remember, Efficiency and Sustainability."

The Guide to Lean Relaxation on Thanksgiving Night

After you have successfully assigned each one of your guests to the appropriate after-dinner task (leftover process management, Lean dishes, quality dessert preparation, and Value vacuuming), take a seat on the couch. If any of your team has questions on why those tasks are necessary right then, feel free to respond, "Remember Henry Ford and the success of the first manufacturing line," or, "We need to Share a Focus across all Business Teams." They'll easily understand your motivational example and go back to pie-cutting and dish-drying in no time.

You may have the urge to monitor how much Windex your friend uses on your glass dining room table, or ensure your brother used the right sized Tupperware for the Jello salad, but remember - micromanagers aren't Lean managers.

Once your guests have sufficiently contributed to the Value Stream and have joined you in the living room, invite the team to share what they are most thankful for. Ask them to identify their Key Performance Indicators, and to share how they plan to keep their gratitude relevant in a struggling economy. (To stay Lean, answers should be delivered in 30 seconds or less).

And before you kiss your guests goodnight, or tuck them in, or assign them any follow-up Value Stream responsibilities like leaf-bagging or tile-and-grout-cleaning, don't forget to wish them a very happy, safe, and relaxing Lean Thanksgiving.

And the same to you! Happy Thanksgiving!

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