Lean Tools: How the English Make Tea [Guest Post]
Guest Post: James Lawther is Head of Operational Excellence for a FTSE 100 company. He blogs on the topic of service improvement, and he gets upset by poor customer service
I am English.Â If there is one thing the English love (and are particularly good at), it is the art and science of making and drinking tea.
I guess that the vast majority of readers of this column are American, and as such you are thinking two things to yourselves:
- Donâ€™t drink the stuff.
- What on earth has tea got to do with lean?
Well let me explain, contrary to common practice in the USA, the best way to make a cup of tea is not to add mint and buckets full of ice.Â The process itself is fairly straight forward:
- Take a spoonful of tea.
- Add hot water (boiling hot water).
- Let the tea brew for 2 to 4 minutes depending on your taste.
- Add milk.
It hasn’t always been that easy. Â If you go back as far as, say, 1773, there were a number of things that could go wrong, including dropping a ship load of the stuff into a harbour.
Since then we have made a couple of improvements.
- The tea comes in tea bags; devices that ensure you have exactly the right amount of tea per cup. Â They also negate the need to sieve tea leaves out through your teeth.
- Water is now boiled in electric kettles, these switch themselves off automatically when the desired temperature is reached to prevent over boiling.
- The kettles use electricity, this is far more convenient than having to lay a fire and as it is faster it reduces the likelihood that the English male is late providing the cup of tea to his female partner (usually regarded as a defect).
- The electricity is provided down wires with a flexible plastic coating which prevents electrocution.
- The milk we add to the tea is delivered pasteurised, thus preventing numerous unpleasant diseases.
- We store the milk in a cold cupboard called a fridge which prevents it from going off.
- Finally once we have added the milk to the tea the tea bag has a handy tab attached to it that reminds us to remove the tea bag and stops us from burning our fingers whilst acting as a stirring device.
Tea making, and more to the point, society as a whole, has moved on significantly since the 18th century. Â One of the strongest forces for change is our ability to error proof.
In all endeavours, Poke Yoke is the corner stone of progress.
All that is needed now is a way of ensuring that you Americans drink your tea hot and you will become a truly civilised nation.