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Paul Naysmith

Quality Insider

A Secret Christmas Audit Goes Public

The insider scoop on sugar-fueled workers and other North Pole conditions

Published: Monday, December 17, 2012 - 11:46

This is a true exposé from Santa’s mega-factory at the North Pole. The information, apparently smuggled out in a series of notes rolled into scrolls and tucked deep inside elf shoes, was found floating in the open stretches of water known as the North Pole Passage. You may not be aware that elf shoes, with their curled-up toes and red bell on the tip, make very good buoyancy devices, a fact that could prove useful in situations where you cannot access a life vest and you are only wearing novelty footwear.

The notes, all written by hand in a delicate script, were never signed; however, experts involved in their analysis nicknamed the anonymous author the “Grumpy Quality Elf” (GQE). This mysterious journalist captivated the attention of many academics of prestigious universities across the land, all seeking to understand the secrets behind the production processes found in the most remote and desolate factory on earth.

The notes were found in chronological sequence, which is fortunate because if they hadn’t been, they wouldn’t make sense, and also because that made it much easier for me to report about these findings. The first note begins, “Santa is a lazy fat man who only contributes to the organization once a year, yet takes all the credit from us hard-working elves.” This statement alone seems to indicate that the author is both grumpy and an elf. The whistle-blower has helped researchers understand the processes that support the magical manufacturing and Christmas delivery process, and could be of great help to those of us in the quality profession. A summary of the highlights follow.

Elf labor. It is a misconception that elves work as free or slave labor at the North Pole. From all accounts it seems that payment is in the form of candy canes. This is a very attractive offer to any elf. Since they are reared on sweet foods, candy canes are highly prized. They also help keep elves’ breath minty fresh, as many suffer from halitosis. Elves have an advanced apprenticeship scheme, which can last up to 40 years in some departments. From the notes, it would appear that our author was unable to master woodworking or even assemble a simple Hula Hoop, and was therefore promoted into the position of quality manager. As per North Pole labor laws (Santa’s lair is technically under Canadian jurisdiction), all safety and protective equipment is freely issued to the elves.

Naughty or nice list. Tracking the list of “naughty” or “nice” children around the world is the GQE’s responsibility to maintain and monitor. This list is particularly difficult to keep up to date, but that isn’t due to the great number of children in the world. The challenge dates to the winter of 1934, when the song, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” was released. This was the first time that Santa’s behavioral-monitoring process was declared to the world, and ever since then everyone is aware they are being assessed or measured on their annual performance as human beings. As a result, there has been significant hiding or false reporting of “naughtiness.”

Through rigorous monitoring and auditing—quite difficult for one elf to handle alone—a 67-percent error rate in the “nice” list has been established. On this assessment alone, the 80 years of incorrectly assigned gifts has cost Santa as much money as the current debt of all Western nations combined. Santa is currently being lobbied by the coal-mining industry to improve the monitoring process. This would ensure that lumps of coal are correctly sent to naughty people (although I have to say I’ve always received mine), as well as increase the value of coal commodities.

In a rather cynical aside, the GQE also boldly states that the only reason why Santa is a jolly fellow is because he knows who the “naughty” girls are and where they live.

Warranty. Returns are an unfamiliar concept to Santa due to his policy of keeping the manufacturing base secret; parents are unable to direct defects back for repair or replacement. There is a certain irony in this, given that children the world over know where to address their letters to Santa, but they never share this information with grown-ups. (Parents: For the sake of consistency, please use this excuse.)

The GQE is aware that variation in the toy-manufacturing process would at some point create the risk of a sub-elf-standard product escaping the North Pole. This problem is also compounded by pressures put on the elves by Santa to ensure single-day delivery, rather than spreading the process out across the year. Many years ago, the GQE did attempt to spread the delivery dates, but the concept was only accepted by people in the Netherlands, where delivery was scheduled for December 6. This was later moved back to Christmas Eve after Santa refused to update his contract, which stipulates delivery on a single night of the year.

Delivery. In the notes, the GQE dispels the myth that Santa comes down the chimney to deliver presents. This is an impossible feat, since the big man would be physically unable to fit down an 8 in.-diameter chimney pot. Hence, elves were selected for this task, due to their slim and short-height genetic makeup. The elf shoes are designed with curled up toes to aid in the process of being thrown feet-first down the chimney. The GQE documents that he attempted, without success, to institute a “confined-space entry permit” system to reduce the associated hazards of traveling up and down a chimney with Christmas presents.

What Santa doesn’t know is that the elves have never told him about the cookies and milk that good children leave for the man in red and white. Due to their great fondness for sweets, noted above, the elves keep this perk a secret, eating as much as they can and brushing crumbs from their green uniforms before ascending the chimney.

Due to emissions regulations, reindeer power is no longer a sustainable option. This has forced the elves to innovate, and they have heavily modified a hybrid-powered vehicle into a sleigh. Animatronic reindeer, as a result, have been used for years now. Do you honestly think a real reindeer would have a red nose, naturally? The smuggled scrolls also indicate that the robotic Rudolph has an elf to assist in night-flying, as per FAA regulations.

Power source. Of particular interest to researchers was the source of the mysterious power used to run remote North Pole factories. Many speculated it was either thermal, nuclear, solar, or methane (from Reindeer poop). However, these theories were relinquished after the final note was found. The energy, it turns out, is harvested from the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

For years scientists have believed that the northern lights were produced in the atmosphere by magnetic interference from solar flares. However, according to the smuggled notes, these lights come from a source much closer to home. In a particularly moving comment, the GQE describes how, looking out at the clear night sky with the dancing green and pink waves reflecting in his eyes, he starts to tear up. His emotions reach a peak with the brightest displays because he knows they are produced by the joy and love of all children at this magical time of year. If it were not for the wonder and happiness of giving quality gifts, the lights would not shine, the factory wouldn’t run, and elves would no longer exist.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Or actually, bah humbug, since I’m still waiting to receive the Maserati I keep asking for every year. Anyone want to trade that for a fairly decent pile of coal?


About The Author

Paul Naysmith’s picture

Paul Naysmith

Paul Naysmith is the author of Business Management Tips From an Improvement Ninja and Business Management Tips From a Quality Punk. He’s also a Fellow and Chartered Quality Professional with the UK’s Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), and an honorary member of the South African Quality Institute (SAQI). Connect with him at www.paulnaysmith.com, or follow him on twitter @PNaysmith.

Those who have read Paul’s columns might be wondering why they haven’t heard from him in a while. After his stint working in the United States, he moved back to his homeland of Scotland, where he quickly found a new career in the medical-device industry; became a dad to his first child, Florence; and decided to restore a classic car back to its roadworthy glory. With the help of his current employer, he’s also started the first-of-its-kind quality apprenticeship scheme, which he hopes will become a pipeline for future improvement ninjas and quality punks.