Many years ago a small expedition to the North Pole was funded by several American toy manufacturers, anxious to better understand how Santa’s workshop achieved such incredible productivity and just-in-time delivery.
“How can Santa produce all those toys in such a short time?” one manager questioned in disbelief as the small group of managers furtively approached a window of Santa’s workshop. “Be quiet,” the group’s leader whispered to his fellow conspirators as he carefully wiped away a patch of window frost, “we want to learn as much as we can about their process before we’re discovered.” Through the window, an army of diminutive workers could be seen producing to a cadence such as never before witnessed by these American managers.
“Look how they move these toys down the line without a hitch,” exclaimed one manager.
“Yes and look at the smiles,” noted another, “no entitlement here. My workers are three times the size of Santa’s but don’t produce even a fraction of the volume. All they do is complain.”
A third manager observed, “There appears to be a chart in the middle of the floor that tracks production by the hour. No doubt Santa uses that to crack the whip.”
“Indeed,” noted yet another manager, “and there is some kind of chart above the workers that shows how they optimize their production, and another white board that shows what’s expected of the team.” “We could never get away with this my plant,” lamented one manager. “It’s clear that the North Pole has a team culture that’s foreign to the U.S.”
Suddenly the production line stopped. Apparently one of the workers had found a defect. Workers swarmed to the area where the defect was found and then gathered to talk about it. “How can these little people be so productive when they stop just because of a single defect?” laughed one of the managers who was immediately joined in laughter by the others. “Yes, shouldn’t they just call the quality department?” one queried.
Still, the managers agreed there we some unusual new tools that appeared to be central to Santa’s secret. If only they could learn more about how those tools worked. As if to answer their wish, Santa suddenly swung open the workshop door and bid his industrial spies, “Merry Christmas! Please come in. What would you like to know?”
The startled visitors thereupon entered Santa’s workshop and spent the remainder of the day asking questions about the tools that he had devised to improve productivity. With cordiality that befit the season, Santa answered every question. “Even if our employees are not as good as Santa’s,” remarked one of the managers, “at least we can take advantage of these new tools.”
As the shift was winding down, Santa’s visitors thanked him for answering their many questions, and then departed, intoxicated with these North Pole manufacturing techniques. When the visit ended, one of Santa’s employees asked Santa, “Why have you answered all of these questions from our competitors?” Santa smiled wryly and replied, “Do not worry, what they need to know they will not see.”
Ho, ho, ho and Merry Christmas. See you next year.