A Lean Discussion With My Grandma

Posted on December 9, 2011 | in 2011 Baseball Winter Meetings, Inventory, Kanban, Lean Tools, Lean Wastes, Overprocessing, Personal, Standardized Work | by

After flying out of Dallas from the Baseball Winter Meetings and landing in Chicago, I was all set to drive home to Ohio but stopped off to stay at my grandma’s house about halfway between since it was so late. This morning over coffee we discussed my trip to Dallas and what “lean” really is.

She asked “So if I were to ask what lean can do for me here at home, what would you tell me?”

(This was, of course, after she had opened up the closet in the bedroom I used to show me where she kept all the boxes of Christmas decorations whose last year of use is unknown.)

“Well, one area where lean can help is by reducing inventory storage. For example, managing the stock of canned goods you keep in the cabinet and downstairs pantry by determining what items you use most often and setting up a kanban system. This will help you keep on hand what you actually need instead of accumulating.”

She said “Well I have all this extra space that I don’t know how to use, so if I go to the store and see they have cans of green beans at two for $1 I stock up because they’re normally a dollar per can.”

I replied “While true you are getting a good deal, that’s more than you would really need. Excess inventory is one of the eight lean wastes.”

I rush off to my room to get her a brochure I was using at the Baseball Trade Show. “Excess inventory storage is one of the things I would try to help teams and businesses eliminate. First, it takes up floor space, and even though you have a lot of ample space in this house it suggests that yes, this house is bigger than you need.

“On top of that, by having excess cans of food in your pantry that you don’t know when you’ll use, you have a lot of money tied up in inventory that is no longer a liquid asset. That’s essentially money you are storing in your pantry that you can’t return.”

She says “So you’re saying by buying up all of the sales, I might be using up money that I could instead be spending on a steak.”


As we were wrapping up our time together this morning, she gave me a photograph print to take home and went to get an envelope to enclose the picture so it wouldn’t get damaged. She found one but it had writing on it.

“Here, even though you won’t keep it let me scribble out the writing on this envelope…”

I said “No, Grandma, don’t worry about it. I know what’s in the envelope. Besides, scribbling out the name when it doesn’t matter is an example of overprocessing, another one of the eight lean wastes in the brochure I gave you.”

I hope she reads the rest of the brochure…

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