Lean Whiskey: 21: Highland Park Scotch, What is the Point of Lean During a Rare Pandemic?

Mark Graban, Jamie Flinchbaugh, and Tom Ehrenfeld


In Episode 21, Mark and Jamie return to our regular casual format of open discussion over a drink, this time joined by Tom Ehrenfeld, well known to the lean community for his writing and editorial work with the Lean Enterprise Institute. We all enjoyed tasting some Highland Park scotch, with Tom trying it for the first time, Mark opening a new bottle, and Jamie getting towards the end of a bottle. 

We talk about what new things we’ve been up to, with Mark winning with some California-based parasailing. We finish the discussion by talking about our favorite things about fall, with pumpkin spice lattes (or pumpkin-flavored whiskey) being a disqualified answer. 

We spent the bulk of the discussion exploring how companies can and should use lean during the pandemic, and even whether lean is valid under such conditions. We begin by talking about businesses such as United and Delta and how they can deal with such a black swan event in the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta had revenues last quarter of $3B, but lost $5.4B. But what are they going to do, sell their planes? To whom? Movie theaters can’t pay their rents, but what will landlords do, rent their space to another movie theater? There are major challenges that many industries face that will struggle with either long-lasting or even permanent shifts in their markets. Can lean help? Is lean enough? This is what we wrestle with on a Sunday night over a glass, or two, of scotch.  

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