Maker’s Mark “Burning Platform”


Maker's Mark Dipping

Maker's Mark – History:

I saw this on the Travel Channel's “Made in America” show, about Maker's Mark Bourbon:

Bill Samuels, Sr. decided to create a distinguished style of bourbon whisky. So he left the T.W. Samuels Distillery and began his new venture by burning the 170-year-old family recipe.”

We use the phrase “burning platform” a lot, the idea of giving people a “no turning back” reason for change or improvement (often in the lean context). One version of the origins of the “burning platform” story can be found here.

Are you as willing to be as gutsy when putting aside your old “family recipe” for manufacturing (or doing anything) the old “non-Lean” way? Are you willing to burn it and leap into the Lean abyss? Is this necessary if you're really going to adopt Lean?

I think too many companies struggle because they say they are going to adopt Lean, but they just “dabble” with Lean and try to fit some Lean tools into the non-Lean mindset and practices of the company. That's a recipe for frustration. It might even drive you to drink!

What's your company's “burning platform” in manufacturing? Competition from China? Poor quality? Demands from customers to cut costs? What works for you in your Lean adoption? Has your company struggled without a burning platform issue?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I guess destroying the family recipe is one way to create the ‘burning platform’. One thing I always wondered about was how could a bourbon producer, where the production process requires 4 years of aging (or think about Scotch, where it is more like 12 to 18 years), operate a Lean business? The planning/forecasting process must be quite difficult when the ‘pull’ signal comes only after nearly a generation.

  2. The world is changing and there is no way to stay with the past. Price is now driven by market and earning actually comes from cost reduction. Yes, there is resistance to go beyond what has always been being done, but result will prove that worths.


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