Peter Pan’s Shadow

Friday, June 19, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt
People who know me understand how much I love everything Disney.  Disney World andMe and Minnie! Disney movies always take me back to a simpler fantasy world away from the realities of business and life.  I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to watch Disney movies mostly so I could watch them with them and relive the fantasy world I so enjoyed as a child.  And to see my children wide-eyed at their first sight of the Magic Kingdom and Mickey.  It is a great experience as an adult even though the highlight for my children now-a-days is who gets to push the elevator button first.

One of my favorite movies is Peter Pan.  The symbolism of Peter and his shadow is the movement from a fantasy world to the world of reality.  Since the great victory the US had in WWII, we have been fortunate as a nation . . . living a fantasy if you will.  With Europe decimated, the world turned to our country for most of its goods and services.  A productivity mindset set the stage for the next 25 years to meet the world’s demand.

W. Edwards Deming rejected in the US went to Japan to start the next generation of thinking moving a country from one of command and control thinking (productivity mindset) to systems thinking (quality and improvement mindset).  The start of the Japanese Industrial Miracle had begun.  By the 70s the US was in a crisis, the auto manufacturers were under attack.  Deming returned from Japan with a new message and new thinking that was watered down into tools . . . if we could just copy what the Japanese did we would be back on top.  The Japanese understanding the change was systemic invited the Americans to their plants to see what they had done and the Americans left with tools.  Later, another group of Americans went to Japan to see what Taiichi Ohno had done in the development of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and called it "lean."  The lean toolkit would follow and again the need for a change of thinking was missed.  Three opportunities to change thinking and three opportunities missed, if this were baseball we would be "out."

Business improvement has turned into classes of certifications and tools for lean, six sigma and lean six sigma that does little to change thinking.  The command and control, productivity mindset still prevails today.  I am afraid that even the current crisis will not awaken the US and the deterioration of our ability to compete continues to diminish.  I see it in my networking meetings where people once in manufacturing are now selling homes or work in service industry now.  If we don’t change our thinking, what is left after service?

For the curious, my blogs, management articles and website outline different thinking that must occur to compete internationally.  We are left with a choice we can continue to live in the fantasy world of the command and control, productivity mindset or begin the process of reattaching our shadow (like Peter Pan) and live in a world of reality.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from "Understanding Your Organization as a System" and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at

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