Talk Shop with Cliff from Cheers


Series of Town Hall Meetings on Manufacturing Issues

I've written before about John Ratzenberger (from Cheers fame) and his show “Made in America.” I've always appreciated his show because of what seems to be sincere interest in how things are made and a sincere appreciation for the “working people” — always taking time to stop and chat, seems to have the Lean concept of “respect for people” down pat. Seems like nothing fake about it.

He is now traveling around, doing a series of town hall meetings on the future of manufacturing in America. There won't be one near me, but if any Lean Blog readers can attend and report, I'd be interested to hear about them. The cities are

  • Tuesday, September 25th — Manchester, NH
  • Wednesday, October 17th — Des Moines, IA
  • Thursday, November 8th — Columbus, OH
  • Tuesday, November 13th — Pittsburgh, PA
  • Thursday, November 29th — Buffalo, NY
  • Date TBD — Chicago, IL
  • Date TBD — South Carolina

The topics to discuss include:

During the town hall events, Ratzenberger will encourage voters to ask the presidential candidates three key questions to determine their commitment to keeping manufacturing jobs in the country:

  • How will you save American manufacturing jobs?
  • What specific policies will you enact to strengthen the American manufacturing base, which is vital to our economic and national security?
  • What steps will you take to enforce our trade laws and hold cheating countries like China accountable?

Now, I'm running the risk of getting into political discussion, which I try to avoid here. The talks are sponsored by a lobbying group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which has sponsorship from unions and companies in the steel industry. They state they want to be a non-partisan organization, rather than being viewed as “labor-left.” We'll see. Unions and companies can, at times, find common ground in blaming their problems on government policies and foreign competition.

I've been challenged by friends, before, that we shouldn't avoid going to the government for help, that the political and international issues ARE worth attending too, even while work on Lean and trying to become a more competitive company. I'm on the fence, still, if looking for government solutions is “smart business” or “making excuses.” What do you think?

I hope that, beyond looking for government help and pointing the finger of blame, that the town hall meetings will also bring up issues like:

“How can American companies use Lean Manufacturing methods to improve quality and to stay competitive, avoiding the need to chase cheap labor overseas?”

Either way, I'm glad these town hall meetings are being held. It's a good discussion to have, what can we do to help American manufacturing? It will be interesting to see how this turns out and, again, I hope to hear some first hand reports from Lean Blog readers.

One other link — the AAM has a blog, which features a post on the first town hall in New Hampshire.

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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. Mark,

    John was the keynote speaker at the CT Shingo Prize Awards banquet last November. His topic was much the same (I suspect) as what he’s bringing to these town hall meetings.

    Major points were:
    Education – our kids are not learning the basics – they’re being trained on how to pass tests.
    Parenting – our kids are not being taught how to be good citizens
    Community – it may not take a village, but it does take a community to provide good examples and role models that will help shape and raise each other’s children
    Trade Skills – our kids are not being taught the “tradecraft” of old. He reminded the audience that not every child is going to go to an Ivy League school, let alone any college. An Ivy League educated architect may design a great new building, but masons, carpenters, electricians, HVAC installers and plumbers have to build it. The point he was making here was that knowledge transfer is lacking. This is probably true in other manufacturing sectors as well.

    His speech was both informative and entertaining and was apolitical. One statement he made that stuck with me was, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Before Michelangelo could paint his masterpiece, someone had to build the Sistine Chapel, otherwise he would have painted a really great looking floor.”

    Cliff Clavin really does have some insightful things to say. Who knew?

  2. Please share your stories about lost manufacturing jobs.

    The Alliance for American Manufacturing is a national, non-partisan group dedicated to strengthening U.S. manufacturing. AAM’s blog,, covers issues related to U.S. manufacturing jobs and is compiling firsthand accounts of factory closings and lost jobs.

    AAM invites people to share their stories about lost manufacturing jobs, either by emailing Steven Capozzola at, or by posting a comment directly on the blog,



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