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TV Shows that Teach Lean

I do a lot of channel surfing, and frequently come across shows that teach Lean lessons, albeit without really knowing they are doing it. So here’s my list of the TV shows that preach Lean…

  • Kitchen Nightmares. Chef Gordon Ramsay comes in and overhauls a restaurant in a very short time (kaizen). He focuses on respect for people in the work, despite his in-your-face style with relationships. He preaches cleanliness and order (5S). He simplifies menus and promotes standard processes for preparing and serving meals. He pushes for small lots and fresh food-far closer to one-piece flow than most restaurants he visits are used to. He also is a big proponent of communication. The show provided an interesting view on how people perceive change. The feelings the people on the show express are exactly how the people in a company feel when their work area is changed.
  • Undercover Boss. While still a new show, it depicts how disconnected leadership can be from the front lines of a company. In one show, Joe DePinto, the CEO of 7-11 (and a fellow West Point graduate), makes a suggestion about putting a sink near the coffee makers. He gets laughed at by the seasoned veteran employee. Apparently employee empowerment wasn’t highly valued. The show highlights the dirty laundry of the companies and shows the CEOs as real people rather than just a name on the company letterhead. It also stresses the importance of the involvement of leadership at the front lines.
  • How It’s Made. This show is best for people with some Lean experience. It is fairly fast paced, but those in the know can see best practices sprinkled throughout the episodes. Many of the processes are decidedly un-Lean, though. It certainly is not a how-to guide!
  • Dirty Jobs. With every show, I ask myself how some of these dirty, nasty processes still exist today. Remember-always try to get rid of the dirty, dumb, or dangerous jobs.
  • The Deadliest Catch. Standard Work at its finest. In fact, this show highlights what is probably among the most critical piece of Standard Work in the world. Skipping a step can kill someone quickly. (I wrote another article about this show a while back, just in case you missed it.)

Can you think of any other shows that have good examples of Lean concepts in them?


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