How to Rework a Charlie Brown Tree


Last weekend, as I forked over $70 for a “live” Christmas tree, I had a flashback to a very different experience when I was still a kid.  My family had a tradition of waiting until Christmas Eve to trim our tree.  Late in the afternoon of the big night, I’d accompany my Dad to the local holiday tree sale to pick out our balsam fir.  Alas, by the time we shopped, the yard was totally picked over.  It never dawned on me then that my Dad’s timing was tactical.  He negotiated a price that was pretty close to free for a haggard specimen that, unbeknownst to the seller, was soon to be transformed.  My job was to walk around the now empty lot and pick up scrap branches that had been cut from earlier sales.  What commenced shortly thereafter was nothing short of a Christmas miracle.  We performed tree surgery, not in this case to remove branches, but to add them.   Using clippers and a hand drill, the rework process took about ten minutes.  I held the patient in place while my Dad cut and transplanted limbs in holes predrilled to fill gaps in the greenery.  He took special care to match the size and pitch with surrounding branches, yielding a particularly authentic appearance.   When the cosmetic restoration was complete, the tree was delivered inside to await the trimming ritual.  Complete with lights and tinsel and ornaments, this work of art was virtually indistinguishable from its high-priced cousins.

Now, today it seems laughable that anyone would go to these lengths to save money on a Christmas tree.  In fact, my family wasn’t poor.  We could have afforded a fully intact tree.  For my Dad however, a product of the Great Depression, the values of frugality and resourcefulness were ingrained.  He was preeminently generous to everyone around him, but never spent a penny when it was not absolutely necessary.   Long before Charlie Brown’s tree and long before I learned about the Toyota Production System, I witnessed a basic Lean principle in practice:  “Don’t spend money, use your creativity first.”

Arguably, with the recent purchase of our pricey 2016 tree, I’ve not done right by that principle.  So, as penance and also as a tribute to my Dad, I’ve recreated the magical tree rework process from sixty years ago and videoed it for your holiday viewing enjoyment.   Yesterday, I visited a local Christmas tree stand and bargained my way down to $7.00 for a  tree.   Granted, the tree needed a little rework, but I also picked up scrap branches. Here is a short video of that process:  Reworking a Charlie Brown Tree.   Enjoy!

Paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling’s poem, Trees,

"Blogs are writ by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree."

My Dad, however, came pretty damned close!   From me and everyone at GBMP, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza or whatever you choose to celebrate.


P.S. Give yourself the gift of education in 2017. GBMP is offering twenty two Shingo Institute Courses - between January and November from New Hampshire to South Carolina and lots of places in between. Find a course near you and join us in 2017.

This entry was posted in old lean dude, lean manufacturing, GBMP, creativity, toyota production system on December 21 , 2016.