Learning From Dr. Seuss:


Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), the renowned children’s book author, was born on this date (March 2nd) in 1904. Interestingly, he used “Dr.” in his pen name since his parents really wanted him to be a doctor. In today’s post, I will look at eight great quotes from him to learn from.

I immigrated to America from India. I did not know Dr. Seuss until I met my wife here in America. I grew up with Enid Blyton, the English author. I very much enjoyed reading the Dr. Seuss books with my kids because of his unique writing style. As I was introducing my three children to his books, I was also learning from Dr. Seuss at the same time.

Here are eight lessons from Dr. Seuss:

  • From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.(Source – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)

As Lean practitioners, we can translate this as “from there to here, and here to there, wastes are everywhere”! The funny things are the different wastes! Everything we do has waste in it. Taiichi Ohno is a big proponent of eliminating waste. He made managers stand inside a circle and look for wastes. Wastes forces us to be non-value adding, and increases overall cost.

  • Why fit in when you were born to stand out? (Source – Unknown)

If you try to copy the best, you will only come in second. Trying to copy Toyota does not make sense unless you have the same problems as Toyota. You should try to create your own system – Company XYZ Production System rather than a frail copy of Toyota Production System. Understand your problems and then address them, creating your own production system.

  • Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. (Source – Looking Tall by Standing Next to Short People)

This is a true gem. The insurmountable problems become ant hills once they are solved. This is akin to Occam’s razor in some sense. Occam’s razor can be loosely stated as “the simplest answers provide the best explanations”. We have a tendency to complicate things. As an Engineer, I can vouch for this. At Toyota, they talk about using automation as the last resort to improve a process. They push for simple solutions.

  • You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” (Source – “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

You have brains in your head – you need to use them. You have feet in your shoes – you need to go to the Gemba. This is a perfect summation of Genchi Genbutsu – going to the Gemba to learn the actual facts. You have to go to the source, where the action takes place and see for yourself.

  • You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.(Source – I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!)

You have to keep your eyes open but you have to observe. Seeing and observing are two different things. When you keep your eyes open, you start to see things. When you see more things, you start to observe things. When you observe things more, you start to understand things more.

  • “It is better to know how to learn than to know. (Source – Unknown)

It’s not the tools system, it is the thinking system. To know and to understand are two different things. To know something makes you rigid in your thinking. To understand something makes you flexible in your thinking.

  • How did it get so late so soon?(Source – Poem by Dr. Seuss)

There is no better time than now to start improving and to start learning. Do not wait for the best idea to happen. Do not wait for the new and improved machine. Do not wait for next month. Now is indeed the right time. As Hillel the Elder said, “If not now, when?”

  • Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.(Source – Green Eggs and Ham)

This is the best way to implement process improvement activities. You can say “try them, try them, you may like them”. All you need them to do is to try the idea out. Once tried, they will provide ideas to improve and make them better. The lesson here is that you should not try to force your ideas, rather ask them to try it out. After all, what is the harm in trying it out? Brian Fitzpatrick, and Ben Collins-Sussman recommends saying “let’s try this for 30 days. If this does not work, we will go back to the way it was.” This approach helps in getting buy-in. Almost always, they will start using the new method. If they do not, at least you will get feedback as to why the new method does not work.

Thank you Dr. Seuss for everything you have done.

Happy Birthday!

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Be an Amateur at the Gemba.

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