Standard work: New Ideas are not necessarily better.


Welcome Fall!  My favorite time of the year brings the memory of the story below that really drives home the essence of the waste of over-processing.  It also demonstrates poor alignment around a vision.  It also serves as a good lesson on the need for standard work.  In fact, there are many lean, life lessons in it.

Just because an idea is new, doesn’t necessarily mean it is better.  Vetting a suggestion through the use of a robust (not cumbersome) review process, leads to the implementation of proven and consensed upon changes before changing the current standard and leading to unintended consequences.

New standards, if misaligned with the vision as recounted below, result in process improvement gone wild or a tale of unintended consequences.  Enjoy.

Saint Francis and Grass Lawns
author: Unknown

“Winterize your lawn,” the big sign outside the garden store commanded. I’ve fed it, watered it, mowed it, raked it and watched a lot of it die anyway. Now I’m supposed to winterize it? I hope it’s too late. Grass lawns have to be the stupidest thing we’ve come up with outside of thong swimsuits! We constantly battle dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace,

Daucus carota QUEEN ANNE'S LACE

Image by gmayfield10 via Flickr

thistle, violets, chicory and clover that thrive naturally, so we can grow grass that must be nursed through an annual four-step chemical dependency.

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about this:

“Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.”

“It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass.”

“Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?”

“Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.”

“The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.”

“Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it – sometimes twice a week.”

“They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?”

“Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.”

“They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?”

“No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.”

“Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?”

“Yes, sir.”

“These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.”

“You aren’t going believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.”

“What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.”

“You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away.”

“No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?”

“After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.”

“And where do they get this mulch?”

“They cut down trees and grind them up.”

“Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?”

“Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…”

“Never mind I think I just heard the whole story.

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