Monday, November 18, 2002

Challenging Assumptions

I was talking with my wife, Gretchen, as she finished supper preparations this evening. With a flourish, she artfully spread some chopped parsley on top of the entree. "It adds some color" she said, knowing my question before I asked it. But there was an added glint in her eye..."and it is pretty neat to have FRESH PARSELY just picked from our garden!" And, dinner was served.

Wait a minute. Fresh parseley? In Indiana in mid-November? When we had snow flurries last Saturday?

Anticipating my next, yet-unspoken, question, she chirped "I fired up the wall-o-waters. I figured they can protect the parsely for another few weeks. I'm just going to push the envelope and see how deep into winter we can get."

What does this story have to do with learning about lean systems? Gretchen simply challenged the assumption most of us have that gardens can't yield any produce after a hard freeze. She used her own considerable skill as a gardener and a cook. She employed a simple, yet effective tool, called a wall-o-water. This amazing little device is nothing more than a series of vertical clear plastic tubes, open at the top and linked to form a circle. The gardener adds water to each tube, which makes the whole structure stand on its own and protect the plant from freezing weather. Simple, cheap, effective...the perfect lean tool.

Because she challenged assumptions, we have fresh produce from our own garden after snow already flies.

This is a summary of all of George Koenigsaecker's points we are examining. Each one turns an assumption on its head and pushes to an new level of performance using simple tools and creative thinking.

I hope this is helpful.
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