Sunday, April 24, 2016

Gaston Pelletier & The Calf Path

Gaston Pelletier, VP of Continuous Improvement at Connecticut Spring & Stamping (Farmington, CT) is retiring this coming Friday after 48 years of service. I first met Gaston as a guest at my GEMBA (Duraflex, East Hartford, CT) in 2010.  He and a small group of people from CSS were interested in seeing how I was using A3 thinking to build a culture of continuous improvement, and whether the approach might be useful for their company.

Well, check out exactly how well Gaston and his team took the concept and ran:

"While "lean thinking" means different things to different businesses, at CSS, the goal is to get everyone in the company to be their own independent thinker embedding the notion of efficiency into everything that they do and think about. To CSS innovative thinking is the key to staying a world leader. Gaston, with all of his enthusiasm, educates and works the principals with everyone he contacts. The end result for their customers is the best product, most efficiently made at the "lowest" cost."

John Peterson from Ulbrich Steel and I had the chance to see Gaston's GEMBA a few months ago, and what a sight to behold.
What follows is a poem by Sam Walter Foss that Gaston shared with the grateful people of CSS last week. In a nutshell, Gaston is urging everyone to not follow in his footsteps. Instead, "follow what you think you should do to improve our company in any way you see fit." 
One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ‘twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed -- do not laugh --
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach --
But I am not ordained to preach.

Godspeed Gaston! You are one of those people who give LEAN a real good name.

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