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A Corporate Strategic Plan to BAKE a POTATOE versus by a Lean Practitioner

Sometimes you need to leave something simple alone, before complexity creeps in and can make a process almost impossible to execute , for example ...

A Typical Corporate Approach to bake a potato:

  • Conducts market test with suppliers in Mexico, Brazil, and Turkistan to supply 0.75 lb potatoes, choose lowest cost supplier with best Wings tickets.

  • Change to incumbent supplier of Idaho potatoes, insist they meet Turkistan pricing with 3% annual price reductions.

  • Upgrade to 1.0 lb potato, insist supplier erred by pricing for 0.75 lbs as instructed when he knows Toyota uses 1.0 lb potatoes.

  • Instruct potato supplier to preheat the oven to 350F

  • Demand that the supplier show you how he turned the dial to reach 350 F, and have him come up with documentation from the oven manufacturer proving that it was calibrated properly.

  • Review documentation, and then have supplier check the temperature using a sophisticated temperature probe.

  • Direct supplier to insert potato and set timer for 45 minutes.

  • Have supplier open oven to prove potato has been installed correctly, and request a free study proving that 45 minutes is the ideal time to bake a potato of this size and variability due to orientation within the oven.

  • Request a Six Sigma Study showing variable cook times for various potato sizes and orientations.

  • Check potato for doneness after 10 minutes

  • Check potato for doneness after 11 minutes

  • Check potato for doneness after 12 minutes

  • Become impatient with supplier (why is this simple potato taking so long to bake?). Demand status reports every five minutes.

  • Conduct Value Engineering session and new market test.

  • Change to 0.9 lb potato because customers will only notice if potato weight is reduced to 0.85 lb.

  • Check potato for doneness after 15 minutes.

  • After 35 minutes, conclude that potato is nearing completion. Pass through Gate review reporting all Green status.

  • Congratulate supplier, and then update your boss on all the great work you've done, despite having to work with such an uncooperative supplier.

  • Remove potato from oven after 40 minutes of baking, as a cost save without loss of function or quality versus the original 45 minute baking time.

  • Serve potato.

  • Wonder aloud what on earth those Japanese folks are doing over there to make such good, low-cost baked potatoes that people seem to like better than a Typical potato.

How a Toyota employee bakes a potato:

  • Preheat new, high-quality oven to 350 F

  • Insert a 1.0 lb Idaho potato

  • Go do something productive for 45 minutes

  • Check for doneness, then remove perfectly baked potato from oven and serve


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