A Modern Version of Lucy and the Chocolate Factory — But With Sushi (Drake & Josh)


I bet many of you know the famous “Chocolate Factory” scene from the TV classic “I Love Lucy.” Even if you're too young to know the series or Lucille Ball, I bet many of you have seen this in a Lean training class. I can't count how many times I've seen it.

In a meeting with a team at KaiNexus, a colleague was giving an overview of some Lean concepts, and she showed the video:

A relatively younger person on the call mentioned, “Oh, that's like the Drake & Josh sushi scene.”

I'm too old to know who they are or what their show is, but the clip is very clearly an homage to the Lucy scene. It's a pretty direct “remake” in some ways, but with a few clever twists.

The video:

Instead of wrapping candies and then putting them back on the conveyor, their job is to put six pieces of sushi into a container and then place the container back on the line.

The boss is very clearly channeling the boss from the Lucy scene by being bossy and stern. After giving her instructions, she threatens to fire them if any pieces of sushi get through unboxed.

“Any questions?” she bellows.

After a quick pause, one of the guys starts to ask a question, and she yells, “I don't have time for questions!”

She starts up the system and says she'll be back in two minutes to evaluate their performance.

Just like Lucy and Ethel, Drake & Josh find the job to be very easy at first, as they expected it to be. The pacing seems OK:

Sushi starts almost getting past them. The job has suddenly gotten harder, if not impossible.

“Hey, can you slow it down a little bit?”

Because they're isolated, separated by a wall instead of being part of a “Lean cellular layout,” nobody hears them. Nobody responds.

Like Lucy and Ethel, they start eating some pieces, hiding them in their apron. One clever twist is that they start throwing the sushi to the ceiling, where it sticks.

Problem solved?

Again, we see the workarounds that people are forced into when the work is badly designed, along with a fear-driven system that doesn't allow for questions and doesn't make it safe to ask for help.

This isn't a high psychological safety environment!

Oh no, the boss is coming back! Like “Lucy,” the boss thinks the workers are doing fine, so she yells, “Speed it up a little!!!”

Because they were pressured into hiding problems, the situation has now gotten even worse.

This is a management problem, not a worker problem.

It goes as well as you would expect. Some of the sushi pieces start falling from the ceiling. Nice touch.

“Could you slow it down, please? We're just boys!!!!!”

Well done, Drake & Josh (the show, not the sushi packers).

Of course, the video shows the opposite of a “Lean” workplace.

  • Bad work design
  • Overburden (the pace is too fast)
  • A lack of training – certainly no “TWI” Method
  • Bad management, no supervision
  • No “andon” system to call for help
  • No psychological safety

What else would you call out that makes it a “non-Lean” example?

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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.


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