Lean Methodology at Santas Workshop

The main focus for Lean is on delivering customer value while minimizing waste. In other words, doing more for less. Santa’s workshop achieves this in part by having an endless supply of elves at a minimal expense, gingerbread and candy canes I am told. Even his sled runs on reindeer power which only has stable and feed costs.

Santa, who has an unmatched understanding of his customer base, (you better watch out… you know the song) is able to focus his attention on his processes to constantly improve service delivery.  Santa can maximize value by looking at the big picture rather than the components that drive it such as teams, technology or assets.  As we all know Santa knows what questions to ask and this sometimes is more important the having all the right answers.

The North Pole workshop follows a five-step thought process to guide them through lean thinking.

Identify Value

Ask any kid what the value is on Christmas morning and I am sure you will get the point. However when we are looking at Lean we are thinking in terms of identifying the value stream. As the main purpose of Lean is to reduce waste we are looking to ensure that all services provided provide value, and all that do not are eliminated.

Map it out  

Santa and his team have been through a few of these do they have had a chance to get the process done a few times to ensure the outcomes have value. For the rest of us we need to employ value stream mapping to identify in a visual way which of the activities do and do not provide that value.

Create flow

Since Santa only has one night he has to eliminate any component of the flow that impedes delivery of gifts and thus value. The key here is that while we want to focus on not creating waste we must also balance to ensure that there is flow in the process. After all, while an approach may make sense to the elves there may be unforeseen side effects for Santa on delivery day


The kids get the value in the morning (provided they were good) in the gifts they receive and full stockings. In other words we don’t assume to provide gifts toll everyone only that are good – thus the pull.

To break this into terms we may relate to a pull is like a service request. The initial request is from the consumer of the service and depending on the level of automation may have subsequent work-flowed requests to complete the initial business need.

The reason that focus is placed on pull is that push tends to introduce waste through potential assumptions or delivery of service based on the needs of the provider rather than the business or consumer


On Boxing Day Santa and team complete a post mortem of the night and make new process adjustments to minimize waste. As Santa puts it “It’s like wringing out the wash cloth a few times over to get it as dry as possible”


Granted there are going to be some challenges along the way….

One challenge is much like a double edged sword. You become more efficient when you discover more issues, so the process never has an end essentially. The commitment to this must be for the long haul so that there is sufficient time to make the improvements and to continue to drive out further areas of waste.

So, why did Santa implement a Lean methodology? Clearly he was looking to minimize costs. His location suggests that the real estate, while in a remote location provided the best value, the elves work for sugary treats. There is also the fact that there is no incoming cash flow. No kickbacks or endorsement deals for this outfit. If you were working for cookies and milk you might be inclined to be leaner as well even if your waist line is not.

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