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Blog Anniversary, An enlightening 'burger-off' & the TMMX awards (#26)


Today’s subject: The problem with being wedded to the past


To celebrate a year of blogging I figured that the obvious thing to do was talk about burgers as I recently got involved in a verbal 'burger-off' with a fellow fast food chain alumni.


This pitiful situation led me to reflect that I need to strive to be a better man. For context; '87 to '91 were my golden arches years (student & skint) where, in the part-time employ of McDonald's I developed a certain aptitude for the grilling & flipping of burgers.


This unexpected talent culminated in participation in a regional competition where, if memory serves, I came up short at the quarter-final stage (round of 8). I may be romanticising the memory but vaguely recall witnessing true grill mastery in the shape of an 18 stone man-mountain from Portsmouth. Anyway, I digress.


This 'burger-off' was prompted by a recent UK TV advert showcasing beautifully high levels of manual dexterity and skill in professions as diverse as pizza cutting & window-cleaning. These video clips aren't new but serve as an important reminder to celebrate the levels of skill under all of our noses every day as we walk through our factories.


Most ex-fast food people operating in the lean world sing the praises of early lessons in Standardisation, use of checklists, levelling & lead time management & half-decent job instruction & skills confirmation. Whilst agreeing with all of the above, my point is different.


During our meaty 'burger-off' I proudly declared that I'd honed my silky skills pre clam-shell grill days, whereas my friend, a younger man, had only used clam-shells. Let me explain; the picture at the head of this blog is of a clam-shell grill where you lay the patties and close the grill, cooking both sides simultaneously to a timer. In my day (there's that awful anti-change phrase) I argued that it was trickier as the grill was flat and you had to turn the patties rapidly, without tearing the meat and getting your knuckles stuck to the grill (Safety, Quality & Delivery - the holy trinity).


In the '90's we took a certain pride in the speed with which this defect-free, knuckle-preserving flipping could be achieved. It took my friend to point out that trotting out the "in my day" argument was to peddle an anti-change sentiment I've spent a career railing against. The lesson for me: don't be wedded to the past as it shuts your eyes and mind to the benefits of the present and possibilities of the future. Kaizen becomes very difficult.

Master Han said all of this much more clearly in Joe Hyams tremendous book "Zen in The Martial Arts" :


'in the present there are no regrets as there are in the past. By thinking of the future you dilute the present. The time to live is now.' 


He's right of course, but then again we have to look ahead with Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) hurtling towards us, if only to avoid getting left behind. This week I'm attending The Manufacturer's MX (TMMX) awards for which I did some judging earlier this year and will be having a good nosey around their Smart Factory Expo & Leaders Conference to see what the future looks like.


If any of you are attending the events, tug on my sleeve and I'll demonstrate the failing dexterity of a once marginally above average grillman.


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