Manage the Work, Not the Workers

As an owner or manager, your job is to define, design, refine and communicate the paradigm.  It is the job of those who work for you to execute quality and manage the process.  Manage the work.  Not the workers!

8 Pounds of Marbles in a 4 Pound Bag



I start a Lean Manufacturing training class with this question:

“How do you put 8 pounds of marbles in a 4-pound bag?”

 I get answers like: “Impossible.  Can’t happen.  No can do.”

Then I tell them.  Pour 4 pounds of marbles in the bag.  Empty it.  Then pour in the other 4.

This was not a trick question.  It was asked in plain English.  But we, with our preconceived ideas, created this image of marbles spilling out of a bag.

Then I come up with this simple formula explaining “capacity”:

Capacity = Work + Waste.

So, if you imagine the 4-pound bag capacity limiting you to 4 pounds, you are tasked t take the extra steps of emptying the bag and refilling it up.  That’s two extra steps.  In a company’s workflow, we can imagine a 4-pound bag analogy for doing a full day’s work and two days to complete the task. 

With the above formula, what would happen if you eliminate the waste and, in this case, actually be able to put 8 pounds of marbles in a 4-pound bag, by eliminating the waste and increasing the 4-pound bag to an 8-pound capacity. 

That means you can do two days of work in one day.

Think about it?

What you’ve just read is the simple fundamentals of Lean Manufacturing inspired by the Toyota Production System.

The Lean Farm by Ben Hartman - Book Report

First off, this is a must read for both lean practitioners and anyone in agriculture and farming. I would venture to say that any of you who find the time to read this well written book would agree.


Just be sufficient it to say that it was a page turner, and I finished it in a day. Like a favorite movie (mine was “Enter the Dragon”), I would read it again.

The author and farmer, Ben Hartman may well be the Taiichi Ohno of Lean Farming, and a great student. I have to admit that I was intrigued by the concept of merging lean principles into farming, in Hartman’s case, micro farming in the New England area. After thinking about it, it made 100% sense to incorporate lean manufacturing into various industries, but to introduce it into farming?



And when I bought the book, I said to myself, “alright, make me a believer.”

The reason is that I spent 25 years of my formative life growing up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, working in farming during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I also worked in manufacturing and construction where I practiced and learned lean and six sigma methodologies. It was in this tenure where I earned both Lean and Master Black Belt certifications.

So it’s not like I have a blind eye as to what Hartman’s message is and its worth.

As a lean manufacturing coach and consultant, where I advise strategies and tactical implementation to various manufacturers, I can say that I am impressed with Hartman’s astute lean experience into the farming community.

I could use this time let the cat out of the bag and provide you with Cliff Notes highlights (you’re gonna have to read the book) but what I will say is that he did an outstanding job in drafting up the right words without being heavy handed as many Lean and Six Sigma books tend to be. His bio indicates that he has college degrees in Philosophy and in English but grew up in a farm throughout his life.

You could not find a better combination to be the creator of this book.

With that said, I highly recommend you to spend the few dollars to buy this book and dedicate quiet time to read it.

It gave me knowledge that I will take with me till I die (and it just might get me a farming client or two out is this. Who knows?)

And with that said, Ben Hartman’s The Lean Farm “delivered what I needed on time, hassle and defects free,” which, as many of you know, is the core of value. I'm sure it will do the same for you.

Oh, by the way.  If you hate reading, get the audio version and listen to it whiile you drive!!!!  Just saying 😀