There is an article in Canadian Business on the collapse of the bumbling retailer, Target, that boggles the mind, and reinforces all of the reasons why Lean thinking is common sense thinking.  It is a sad story of how the company started on their venture to establish a presence in Canada, then filed for bankruptcy less than five years later, having poured billions into the effort and achieving little more than becoming the butt of Canadian jokes.

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I heard an Easter joke in Canada last week that goes something like this:

Three complete idiots found their way to the pearly gates of heaven and St. Peter told them that if they could tell him what Easter was all about they could enter. The first idiot said, “Well, on Easter Eve Santa Claus comes down the chimney and we all get presents.”

“Not it at all,” said St. Peter and off idiot #1 was sent.

The second said, “Easter is when we all sit around and eat turkey and be thankful.”

“Nope,” said the good saint and he shooed #2 away.

Finally, it was #3’s turn and he said, ‘Easter celebrates how Jesus was born a man and spent his life preaching and teaching us how to be good. The Romans didn’t like it and they had him arrested. They tortured him and Jesus died for us when the crucified him.”

“That’s wonderful my son,” said St. Peter. “You really do seem to understand. So tell me what happens on Easter.”

“Well,” said the idiot, “Every Easter we go to the tomb where Jesus was buried and wait for him to come out. When he does, if he sees his shadow we have six more weeks of winter.”

And, of course, idiot #3 joined his two friends elsewhere.

The fast fashion fad in the apparel industry reminds me of that joke. They had it 90% right – then blew it in the end. But in the apparel business it isn’t a joke. Their failure to get it right perpetuates the sweatshops in Bangladesh and other backwater places, heaps misery and even death on apparel workers, and keeps the massive waste in the apparel sector alive.

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A recurring theme in my blogging over the years has been to blast the blindly accepted, insanely anti-lean thinking practices of the big publicly traded companies. The purpose is not just to make sport of them (although there is often great fun in that). No, it is to try to dissuade the smaller and medium sized manufacturers who actually have a fighting chance of becoming extraordinary and highly successful lean companies from blindly imitating them. Too often the managers of smaller companies make the assumption that the practices of the big companies must be the best practices – that simply because they are loaded with Ivy League talent and other assorted smart folks what they do must be very, very well thought out. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

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The Wall Street Journal published a piece on the difficulties some folks are having in bringing production back to the United States from China. Most of it is fairly typical stuff, while some of it just plain silly … like the CEO of Capital Brands (the people who make the Bullet blender) who “said his Chinese partners have engineering skills and a work ethic that could be hard to match in the U.S.”. Really? The Chinese have engineering skills that can’t be matched in the United States of America? Chinese workers whose productivity levels are a pretty well documented 20% or less than that of American workers have a work ethic that can’t be found here? With a preconceived opinion that defies all common sense it is pretty clear he doesn’t really want to move much of anything from China, so the problems he has found in doing so are little more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Perhaps the most powerful resolution management can make would be to fully understand capacity this year. Not seeing it? Think about the following:

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So the Christian Science Monitor tells us we can now reap the benefits of “the Uberization of freight” – a company called Freightos “is poised to revolutionize the trillion-dollar freight industry, introducing the same efficiency and transparency that Priceline brought to consumer travel.”

I suspect the boys at Freightos will do very well. They shouldn’t even be in business.

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