Parody Video: Keith Olber-Lean and the “Worst Persons in the Lean World.”

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In this post, I'll present a parody video of Keith Olbermann‘s “worst persons in the sports world” videos.

I don't know how much overlap there is between people who read my blog and people who are fans of Olbermann. I've always been a big fan of Olbermann, the sports guy… Olbermann, the political commentator not so much. But, “the worst persons in the world” is a bit that he's done on MSNBC and ESPN.

In this video, I'm playing a character… a parody you might call Keith Olber-Lean. I'll be taking some shots at people… naming names as the tongue-in-cheek “worst persons in the Lean world.”

This video might seem mean spirited. I'm not normally this mean spirited on my blog, although I've made comments about these issues and people before (worse, worser, and worst).

Olbermann often seems mean spirited. But, he's entertaining and usually makes a serious point through humor. I'll try to do the same here. The serious points I'm making are:

  • Lean leaders and consultants should be humble… that's the Toyota style
  • Lean office initiatives should solve real problems that matter for customers and employees (not create situations like this)
  • It's factually untrue to say that Lean is only about speed and that Six Sigma is the only method for Quality. Lean is about both quality and flow (read more)

Those are my serious points. I hope you enjoy the video. I made it to amuse myself as my own homage to Olbermann, whether others like the approach or not.

I don't think the Lean community would really be a better place with Olbermann-type commentaries and name calling… Olbermann and Olber-Lean are not very humble characters…

So here goes with the video:

Click to see the full version of the video that starts with my introduction and disclaimer.

You can read the script below if you can't view the video. This video is probably an example of why so many IT departments block YouTube, even if you might learn something from it.

To summarize:

WORSE: Lean consultant John Black, for this comment he made in the news (read more):

“If you're not dead (in 20 years), you're going to be in one of your health-care systems here in bed, with a tube up your ass and one down your throat. You're going to be saying to yourself, ‘My God, I wish I would have asked John Black to come in and help improve my care,' ” he recalls saying before leaving one meeting. He thought he'd never hear from them again.

WORSER: The consultants or managers at this British tax office who banned “inactive bananas” from employees' desks, in the name of Lean (read more)

WORST: Lean Sigma consultant Jim Bowie, for saying the following (view the video or read more):

“We need to apply Lean to this process because we have a real quality issue. Go ahead and apply Lean to that process, you're gonna speed up your quality issue, and you're gonna make bad stuff faster.”

Anyway, hopefully, this video makes three or four people chuckle at least. I hope the rest of you don't hate me for it, the tone or naming names… but these are serious points to be made (and a serious misunderstanding about Lean that needs correcting).

As Olbermann would say at the end of his shows… Alright, I've done all the damage I can do. In San Antonio, Keith Olber-Lean, LeanBlog; for John Black, Jim Bowie and the entire Eyewitness News team, go forth and spread beauty and light.


Olberlean… presented by…. KaiNexus… spread continuous improvement

Later, my interview with the world's best Lean healthcare CEO, but…

First the miscreants, losers, and riffraff, the unwashed and the unloved, don't take it completely seriously, I don't mean it completely literally, we just call them today's worst persons in the Lean world.

The bronze goes to Lean consultant John Black, who apparently didn't learn the lesson about humility and Lean leadership.

When Black was in the running for a big multiyear contract to implement Lean in the Saskatchewan health system, John Black was quoted in the news as saying the following.

“If you're not dead (in 20 years), you're going to be in one of your health-care systems here in bed, with a tube up your ass and one down your throat. You're going to be saying to yourself, ‘My God, I wish I would have asked John Black to come in and help improve my care,' ” he recalls saying before leaving one meeting. He thought he'd never hear from them again.

He not only heard from them… they opened their wallet and decided to pay him 40 million dollars (Canadian) before that relationship went sour in a really big political storm last year.

Keep in mind, poor John Black was not the victim of some secret recording that was somehow leaked to the media. John Black TOLD the media, willingly, that he said such a thing… bye Felicia.

This just in, Donald Trump has just tweeted that he thinks the John Black comment was a maybe just a little bit conceited…

The runners up are fine chaps at the National Insurance offices in Longbenton, North Tyneside… in England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom. Longbenton, hello!

They were implementing 5S in their office, or what they thought was 5S, and they were trying to “tidy up” people's desks, which isn't really the main goal of Lean. Lean's about creating a more effective workplace that engages everybody in providing better quality and more value to customers… but I digress.

I'm sure they thought the office 5S initiative would be warmly welcomed, but, some found the project to be “demoralising and demeaning.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, the programme has been so far reaching that one member of staff was asked whether a banana was ‘active' or ‘inactive', in other words whether it was going to be eaten immediately, which was acceptable, or whether it was for later, which would mean the fruit would have to be cleared from the desk.

An HMRC spokeswoman said the programme, which was devised by consultants to improve performance, would help ensure that office space was efficiently used and would also support working relationships.

We all know bananas interfere with performance! I can't get anything done with all of those bananas around!

That banana… that banana adds no value to the customer! It's waste! (office space voice) Yeah, so if you could get rid of those bananas… (Coffee sip) that would be great….

Uh…. are you going to eat that? No? Well, I'm a bit peckish… would you care if I made that an active banana?

Giving me that banana sure would support working relationships. Wait, that banana has a defect… do you have an inactive, non-bruised banana I could have instead? Mmmmm…. Bruised banana…

The company also announced that they'd no longer allow “inactive toilet paper” in the company bathrooms??

But our winner is Lean Sigma consultant Jim Bowie, who calls himself “The Lean Six Sigma Samurai.” I am not making that up.

Now, Jim isn't the only one who incorrectly says that Lean is only about speed and Six Sigma is needed for quality… you can't blame him, he read that in Michael George's book “Lean Six Sigma” and he's just repeating it.

But the statement in this next clip has to be one of the silliest things I've ever heard and, again, this is not a secret recording, this is something he voluntarily said and purposefully shared online…

With Lean, you'll just make bad stuff faster? So he's the Lean Six Sigma Samurai and he's dishonored himself if not the entire Lean Sigma movement… if only there were some traditional ceremonial Samurai way to stop saying these things… ah right, seppuku. No, Jim Bowie, seppuku is NOT one of the Ss in the 5S methodology. And put that sword down. We need need to keep that an inactive sword, Jim…

Making bad stuff faster… saying bad stuff faster… Jim Bowie is today's worst person in the Lean, ahem, Lean Sigma world…

(throw papers)

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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. Bravo. Enjoyable and well performed. I like the positive stuff better, but I enjoyed this as a nice change of pace.

    • Thanks, George. The Olbermann “worst persons” style can wear a bit thin. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make this a regular feature.

      I hope you weren’t worried that I was going to name you one of the “worst,” George. No chance of that.

  2. Hilarious. I’ll miss Keith too.

    What I’d hate to see in the Lean world:

    – Jim Rome style “smack talk”

    – ESPN2 “hot takes” ala Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless

    I agree that would be bad for the Lean world. Hell, I think it’s bad for the sports world, too.


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