….. Don’t be the toothpaste guy


What started as a Reddit story has turned into a universal lesson on how to NOT fix a problem.


Poor toothpaste guy…


A toothpaste factory was experiencing extreme issues with the accuracy of its production line processes which was causing empty toothpaste boxes to be shipped out to clients by mistake. Client’s were naturally getting in line to complain and understanding how catastrophic this problem could become, the CEO stepped in with their action plan of how to fix a problem:

The eye watering $8M was spent on a high tech, very sophisticated, super precise set of scales that would sound an alarm and flash bright lights when an empty toothpaste box would make it through to that particular point in the production line.

When the alarms sounded and the lights flashed the entire production line would shut down, a staff member would have to leave their station walk over to the section of the line where the scales were located, remove the offending empty box, hit the start button, walk back to their own section and wait for the production line to fire up again.


A short time after the solution was implemented the CEO looked through financial reports to check on the highly coveted Return on Investment figures. You can bet a round of “Thirsty Thursday” drinks there were Executive high fives all round when the reports indicated there were NO EMPTY BOXES shipped out of the factory since the scales were implemented!! Customer complaints were at an all time low! AND they were gaining market share again!


But before truly celebrating the win, the CEO took a closer look at the reports and realised there were zero defects picked up by the scales.

None. Nada. Zilch.

Short of this solution being an engineering miracle, those stats were simply not possible.

Confused, the CEO took a trip to the production line and chatted to the workers who had to man the machinery, products, and of course the newly implemented set of scales. He discovered a $20 desk fan perched just before the scales and learned that if empty boxes made it down the production line, the fan would simply blow the box off the conveyor belt and into a bin before it even reached the scales.

Turns out the eight million dollar set of scales impaired the staff’s ability to efficiently do their job and created such lengthy interruptions to process that the team were left with no choice but to create a work around to fix the multitude of new problems the very expensive solution created.


Moral of the story: Don’t be the toothpaste guy.

You can’t help but feel for this CEO.

He has faced a critical problem within the business he is responsible for, most likely armed with the only method to find a solution he knows.

Never the less, the lesson remains.

Communicate with your team and be educated on what happens in their world when it comes to implementing tools, software and new processes that directly affect the.

We see this too often, organisations spending an incredible amount of time and money on implementing solutions or changes that simply don’t work. Your team, your front line workers, your leaders are the best asset you have. Including them and understanding what they face in their current day-to-day is the best step you can take in making the right decision when implementing change.