Do the Right Thing Shingo


For years the people running the Shingo Prize have engaged in blatant discrimination, denying the leanest organization in the world the right to an on-site assessment and, therefore, consideration for the award on the basis of the fine print in the award criteria that states “The Shingo Prize accepts applications from around the world, provided we are capable of sending an assessment team to the applicant’s country if a site visit is awarded.” Those flimsy excuses were knocked aside a few days ago when the Canadian government announced:

“Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today presented Santa and Mrs. Claus with the 2,999,999th and 3,000,000th ePassports at a special ceremony in Vaughan, Ontario. Whether you are travelling by car, by boat, or with a team of flying reindeer, Canada’s ePassport is the most convenient and safe way to go.”

The North Pole, the Canadians made clear, is a part of Canada. Mr. Claus demonstrates its accessibility every year and now that it is part of Canada there is no excuse whatsoever for the Shingo folks to claim inability to visit his country, make their assessment, and the give the man the Prize to which he is so clearly entitled.

The injustice is really beyond the pale. Claus wrote the book on Just In Time centuries before Taiichi Ohno ever visited that grocery store and dreamed up kanban. How much leaner can a supply chain be than to make a delivery to every kid in the world, using the chimney no less, to minimize steps … and to use reindeer no less, generating nary a speck of carbon emission?

The entire process is make to order – no forecasting – no ERP - no big data – one on one conversations and personal letters from every customer. He then follows up with each customer and sees them when they’re sleeping and knows when they’re awake. How’s that for relying on “direct observation” – an approach the Shingo people claim to put weight on in their evaluations. How many manufacturers can say they are anywhere near that close to their customers or so focused on creating value for them? Quality control? The man makes a list and checks it twice, no less.

The Shingo folks claim to put a high value on constancy of purpose. That’s a hoot. Who has more constancy of purpose than Santa Claus who has been single focused on one task for no one knows how long … but at least since his name first made the American press in 1773 – before America was America. That’s 240 years without a single dissatisfied customer. How’s that for having a “high level of attainment” … Being “considered world-class” … having a “positive trend with very few anomalies to explain” Shingo Committee? How’s that for being ‘stable, predictable, and a long term, mature’ operation Shingo Committee?

The Shingo committee represents itself as a group that values striving for perfection. Claus doesn’t seek it – he lives it; yet his name is nowhere on the Shingo Prize winners list. Denying Santa Claus a Shingo Prize is the equivalent of keeping Babe Ruth out of the Baseball Hall of Fame; asserting that Gandhi doesn’t meet the standard for a Nobel Peace Prize; that Einstein wasn’t qualified for his honorary degree from Princeton. If Santa doesn’t get a Shingo no one should get a Shingo.

The travesty has gone on long enough. I urge all lean manufacturers to take a stand. I say no one should submit another application to the Shingo Committee; not a single one until this grievous wrong is made right. Claus gets a Shingo – NOW!

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