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Who's Lean in TV & Film: Week 2 Voting

by Joshua Rapoza
November 1, 2013

Who's Lean in TV & Film: Week 2 Voting

by Joshua Rapoza
November 1, 2013 | Comments (0)

Welcome to week two of the Who’s Lean in TV and Film tournament. A month ago we asked the lean community to nominate characters from television and film, that they feel have elements of lean in their thoughts/actions. They also had to give the reasons for the nominations. Now those nominees have been narrowed down and are going head to head, tournament style, to see who’s the leanest.

Here's this week's head to head

leanscreen

Voting for this round has ended.  Click here to follow the progress of this contest

Match-up #1

The Bobs

Office Space (Film)

vs.

Sheldon Cooper

The Big Bang Theory (TV)

The Bobs from the movie Office Space actually have only a few minutes of screen time, but they left an impression on anyone who saw the film (practically every American who works in an office).

First, they were efficiency consultants hired by Initech.  The Bobs were pure genius in their approach to waste removal.  They recognized that an entire department of customer service could be eliminated simply by having the engineers take their own orders from the customer interviews, (thus leaning out the lean process).  This likely also reduced defects as engineers get the specifics of orders first-hand and can ask the right questions the first time.  This likely cut down on data entry errors by the CSRs and improved quality at the source of the order process.

The downside of the Bobs’ approach to work is they recommend eliminating people as opposed to reassigning.  This isn’t Lean is at all.  Plus, the one person they recommended for a promotion is someone who has zero passion for the work.  So maybe the Bobs aren’t totally lean, but they do show some great lean thinking and behaviors.  We’re all a work progress, right?

Sheldon is a master of 5S and Standard Work, as you can tell from the lab and apartment layout.  He is rock solid on schedules and takt times as well.  He always does root cause analysis and uses the scientific method for problem solving.  In the episode called “The Worksong Nanocluster,” (Season 2, Episode 18) Sheldon essentially performs a kaizen on the process another character Penny uses to make “Penny Blossoms.”

On the downside, he is not the most effective manager.  Still, he seems to implicitly understand one piece flow, structured brainstorming, and the value of experimentation (to some extent).

The Bobs (Office Space)
The Bobs
Office Space (Film)
 
12%
Sheldon Cooper
The Big Bang Theory (TV)
 
88%
Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)

Match-up #2

Hercule Poirot

Mystery Theatre/Poirot Series (TV & Film)

vs.

Charlie

Kinky Boots (Film)

Hercule, Agatha Christie’s famous detective portrayed by various actors in numerous TV and film adaptations, eliminated waste by using minimal conveyance, and maximizing the use of “ze leetle grey cells.”  Ha!

His best skill was asking the right questions of the right people.  He always went to the source.  Rather than just take people’s word for it, Hercule was a keen observer of what people’s actions and behaviors – what they were actually doing, not what they said they were doing – as opposed to telling him.  He was the Belgian poster-child for going to the gemba.  Doing the right work – didn’t waste time or energy on unnecessary effort following red herrings.

He worked alone and with his team, difficult as it was at times as everyone was human!  Most importantly, he always knew who his customer was – his client or the victim(s), sometimes the same and sometimes not – and he could always tell the difference.

On the downside, he did keep his teammates in the dark sometimes, often leading to frustration and perhaps development of their capabilities.

In the film Kinky Boots, Charlie inherits a floundering shoe manufacturing company from his father.  He has the option of laying off staff and closing the doors or identifying a need and filling it.

Charlie uses interactive design by collaborating with his customer base and creating multiple prototypes.  He engages his team and challenges the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude to solve design problems from the customer‘s perspective.  He also sets the expectation of near perfect quality for his new product launch and works on the shopfloor with his team to get it there.  Sounds lean to me.

He even goes as far as marketing his line of boots aimed at drag queens by wearing them himself at a fashion show.

Hercule Poirot (Mystery Theatre/Poirot Series)
Hercule Poirot
Mystery Theatre/Poirot Series (TV & Film)
 
47%
Charlie
Kinky Boots (Film)
 
53%
Charlie (Kinky Boots)

Match-up #3

Nanook

Nanook of the North (Film)

vs.

Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones Movies (Film)

Nanook is the only character in this tournament who is an actual person, or was he?  The documentary “Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic” tried to capture what Inuit life is like in the Canadian Arctic.  In its own way it was a pioneer of reality TV, as the documentary had several staged sequences, and some of the people in it were essentially actors.

Why is Nanook lean?  Well, he never produced more than he had to, nor did he produce before he had to.  He eliminated waste and used all that he took.  Nanook had minimal household possessions: essentially two stone pots and two stone lamps, eliminating inventory and wasted space.  He dealt with problems as they arose and often improvised counter measures with just those materials he had on hand.

(To be honest when I first saw this nomination I thought it was a stretch, however there are definitely elements of lean thinking there.)

“Indy” is perhaps the king of just-in-time production/activity.  Whether catching a float plane, avoiding blades that would slice his head off, or grabbing his signature fedora from the other side of an ancient door that is about to crush him, he always manages to complete the task just when he needs to, not a second before.  Steven Spielberg painted a pretty good picture of JIT when we see the fedora being grabbed at the last possible second.  Any earlier, it wouldn’t be such a great dramatic moment; any later, and the movie ends in the first 20 minutes.

No one goes to the gemba quite like Dr. Jones.  Whether it is a tomb or a jungle or a tomb in the jungle, he goes to where the work is (in this case was) done. The ability to grasp the situation, solve problems (or puzzles), often with the materials he had on hand (for example a bag of sand to counterbalance the treasure’s weight), showed that he had the capability for lean thinking.  That is, unless the problem involved snakes.

Nanook (Nanook of the North)
Nanook
Nanook of the North (Film)
 
24%
Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones Movies (Film)
 
76%
Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones Movies)

Match-up #4

Walter White

Breaking Bad (TV)

vs.

Coach Eric Taylor

Friday Night Lights (TV)

Walt is fiercely dedicated to process standardization.  When Walt cooks Meth, he used a standardized process to ensure a quality product every time, improving the process with each successive session.  When pressured to cut corners that yield inferior product Walt refuses and focuses on the product/process.  He was forced several times to move his lab, each time adapting to maximize value.

His remarkable ability to plan, identify problems, and potential problems took Walter from low man on the totem pole to king pin.  He eliminated any problem that came between him and his goal.

On the downside he’s a drug king pin, a manipulative sociopath, and a murderer.

“Winning is not the goal, it’s the RESULT of doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time,” Coach Taylor is known for saying.  Taylor has many of the elements that make good coaches great, especially in the lean world.  He always visited the gemba, and if he couldn’t make it there, he’d use whatever tools he could get his hands on to grasp the situation, such as game footage of the opposing team.  Taylor was also remarkably organized, which helped eliminate distractions and helped everyone focus on the process.  He established standard work for coaches and players and regularly performed PDCA to improve upon it.

What stands out more than anything else is Coach Taylor’s ability to recognize mistakes as opportunities for learning.  He even used some of his own errors to teach his team.

Walter White (Breaking Bad)
Walter White
Breaking Bad (TV)
 
48%
Coach Eric Taylor
Friday Night Lights (TV)
 
52%
Coach Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights)

That's our tournament for this week!  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.  Stay tuned for Week 3 where we'll see Monk take on Columbo, Picard take on Spock, and Holmes vs. Watson!

In case you missed it, here’s a snapshot of the full tournament brackets. Download as a PDF

Download bracktes as PDF file

Tell your friends and colleagues. Tweet#leanscreen

(The copyright for the images used as part of the series are held by the image right holders. LEI makes no copyright claim on these images.)

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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