Thursday, December 6, 2007

Santa experiences Capacity Building

Santa's Big, Big Christmas
Robert Fritz

It was the year before Christmas and Santa was in a pickle. He had made a commitment to make sure that every boy and girl had the right toy on Christmas morning. He told his friends about his goal, but he didn’t get a lot of help from them.

"That's unreasonable!" they all agreed.
Santa began to lose sleep.
Mrs. Claus was worried about him. "What's wrong? Shall I make your evening milk warmer? Will that help you sleep better?"
"Thank you, my dear," said Santa, "but that's not what's on my mind." Santa told his wife about the commitment he had made.
"What will you do?" She asked. "Will you disappoint all those children?"
"I don't want to disappoint even one child," Santa said.

So Santa began to think. How could he achieve this unreasonable goal? He thought and thought. Then he hit on an idea.

"I'd better put together an organization," he thought.

Santa knew a lot of elves who liked to make toys. He put an ad in The Elf Times and the next thing he knew elves from all over began to ask to be part of Santa's workshop. There were many, many elves who wanted to make toys for Santa, but the shop only had so much space, so many tools, so much paint and wood and nails and glue.

Santa decided to hire the elves that were as obsessed with excellence as he was. Not only did he read all the resum├ęs, he looked at the toys that the elves had made in the past. He talked with them and found out which elves were dedicated to the quality Santa envisioned and which ones were less interested in that level of quality.

Santa hired his first group of elves, and they began to make toys. That night, Santa got the best night's sleep he had in days.

The work progressed but Santa looked at his list of boys and girls. How could they make enough toys? How could he know what each boy or girl wanted? How could he deliver them all in one short night?

These were important questions.

Santa called a staff meeting. The elves considered the outcome they wanted to accomplish. They looked around the table. They studied some data that told them how many toys they created every day.

They counted how many days they had left before Christmas. The numbers didn't lie. One elf finally said, "Gee, guys. It looks like we can't get there if we do it the way we are currently doing it." Santa looked around the room. He saw how sad all the elves looked. He felt a little sad himself.

Finally, one of the elves said the obvious. "If we can't accomplish our result by this process, we need to invent a new process." All the elves agreed. Santa agreed.

Another elf wrote their goal on the top of a flip chart. Then he wrote their current reality on the bottom of the flip chart. And then they all sat around and looked at the chart.

"Gosh," said Santa, "There sure is a difference between our desired state and our current reality. What do we need to do to accomplish our goal?"

The team worked all day and into the night coming up with ideas. Some of the ideas were very helpful. Some of them were very innovative. Some of them were obvious and helpful. Some of them were truly original and also helpful. At the end of this planning process, Santa and elves got a very good night's sleep.

At dawn, they were all up and ready to go. The workshop was buzzing.

One of the ideas the team developed was a way of knowing just what the boys and girls wanted. Santa put another ad in the paper, but this time, in papers all over the world. The ad read, "Wanted. Nice people who are willing to wear a white beard, a red suit, black shiny boots, and can cheerfully say, 'Ho, Ho, Ho.'"

Santa's helpers began to meet with the children in department stores, in firehouses, at school parties, in parades, and sometimes even on television.

The next thing that happened was that Santa met with several toy companies. He was interested in good strategic partners, so he only chose companies that were as committed to excellence as he was. All the companies said they were committed. But Santa knew it was easy to talk the talk. He wanted to work with companies that walked the talk. So he asked them many, many questions. He left no stone un-turned to find out their real capacity, standards, quality, timeliness, and anything else that helped him decide who to choose to work with.

Now it was early fall, and things were looking better. Santa's helpers had set up a computerized inventory system. As soon as the children told Santa's helpers what they wanted, the helper would type in the information into the computer, and instantly it would go into the database.

The weather was getting colder, and Santa checked out his sled. It looked a little small for all those toys. He held a meeting with his reindeer. They were game to get involved. But one of them, the little one with the red nose, took out a map of the world.

"Gee, Santa," he said, "It's a big world."
Santa and the other reindeer looked at the map.
"Oh, Rudolph," one of the reindeer said, "you're always so negative."
Rudolph remembered all the times he was excluded from the games reindeer play. He felt a little ashamed that he had mentioned the size of the world.

But then Santa said, "No, Rudolph is right." Rudolph blushed. "We need to see reality exactly as it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly."

"Hey, Rudolph, want to be on our team next time we play one of our games?" one of the reindeer whispered. Rudolph's nose got even redder. "Gee, thanks." He whispered back.

"So, Santa, how are we going to pull off our goal?" another reindeer asked.

Santa thought. The reindeer thought. Santa didn't get a lot of sleep that night. In the morning Mrs. Claus asked what he was up thinking about all night. Santa told her. Mrs. Claus got quiet for a moment. Then she smiled and said, "Santa, dear, if we have toys being made all over the world, and if more people than just you and the reindeer need to distribute them, who would be the most logical people to do that?"

"Huh?" said Santa, a little confused.
"I mean, who wants to see these wonderful children receive these toys on Christmas morning the most?"
"Me, of course."
"Yes, but who else?"
"The elves?"
"And who else, and don't tell me the reindeer."
"Oh. Hum. Let's see..." Then Santa jumped up and shouted with glee. "The children's parents!"
"Right!" said Mrs. Claus, "the perfect distribution system."

Christmas Eve came, and Santa, the elves, the reindeer, Mrs. Claus, and shops around the world were ready for the next morning. Children were hanging their stockings with great care. Parents were telling their children stories and then tucking them into warm beds. They told them to go to sleep so that Santa would come. That night the children had many, many nice dreams.

And the next day, Christmas morning, a magical thing happened when the boys and girls opened their eyes. Their stockings were filled! Toys, perfect toys, the toys they wanted were there, waiting for them. They were happy. Santa was happy. The elves were happy, as was Mrs. Claus. The reindeer were happy. The parents were happy. And the boys and girls around the world were happy, very happy.

And that day Santa did something he hadn't done in a long time. He took a nap after Christmas breakfast, and he slept very well indeed.

The end.

© Robert Fritz 2003