Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Big Fire Mentality

There is an old Indian saying I learned back in my Boy Scout days that goes, “White man build big fire, sit way back…Indian build little fire, sit up close.” Think for a moment, why would a little fire be better than a big fire?

For young scouts, this saying helped teach a valuable lesson in conserving resources. In Scouting today, we teach low impact camping that actually discourages building campfires altogether.

As a lean thinker, maybe we can modify the saying a bit, like: “Batch thinker build big inventory, sit far apart…Lean thinker build little inventory, sit close together.” Or perhaps, “ Batch thinker buy big machines, sit far apart…Lean thinker build little machines, sit close together.” Or how about, “Manager build big offices, sit far away…Lean Leader build open offices, stand in Gemba”.

If we look around at our processes, it may appear that we still operate with the big fire mentality. A good first step is to build smaller fires. The future challenge is to embrace the low impact approach.


Anonymous said...

A quick note:

In a typical business environment, the word "Fire" and "Fire Fighting" has such a negative connotation that they might get lost from the spirit of your message.

The same message can be said for Product Development also: typically, I see corporations doing "Big Design up-front", which is batchy and produces defects downstream. The one-piece flow approach to developing products has less defects and produces faster course-corrections.

I'm musing now, but this post was good.

Mike Wroblewski said...

Hi Pete,

Thank you for your comments and making note of the potential negative connotation with fire. I did not think about it from that viewpoint but I can see how someone could easily make that connection.

Anonymous said...

Low impact camping without campfires? That's too bad, really. Sorry to comment outside the theme of your post, Mike, but I just find that whole idea sad on so many levels.