When you think of the great individuals in lean history, what names come to mind? W. Edwards Deming. Taiichi Ohno. Shigeo Shingo. Don Messersmith. Oh, you’ve never heard of Don Messersmith? Perhaps, you’re not familiar with the name, but I can almost guarantee that you are familiar with his work.
Don Messermith is an esteemed professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. His accomplishments in the field of entomology – the scientific study of insects – are many, as evidenced by the extensive list of distinguished titles, prestigious awards, and publications that bear his name. But among his comprehensive catalog of contributions, one study in particular stands out above the rest.
Although the work predated the Google search by nearly a decade, and despite never warranting an official publication, there are more than 140,000 pages on the internet which reference the study. As a matter of fact, it’s quite likely that there is only one surviving copy of the work still in existence today. So, why should we care about some little-known, unpublished report from a study on insect behavior performed almost 25 years ago? Because sitting in a file folder in the desk drawer of Don Messersmith resides a report on perhaps the single, most famous problem ever solved: [Read more…]