By Kim Smiley
The movie Elf, starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the elf, tells the story of a Christmas that nearly disappointed children worldwide. On Christmas Eve night, as Santa made his magical trip to deliver his bag of Christmas gifts, his sleigh crashed in Central Park in New York City. Only quick thinking by Buddy and his friends got Santa airborne again and saved the holiday.
A Cause Map, a visual root cause analysis, can be built to analyze the crash of Santa’s sleigh. A Cause Map is built by visually laying out all the cause-and-effect relationships that contributed to the issue. The first step in the Cause Mapping process is to fill in an outline with the basic background information as well as impacts to the goal. Nearly every problem impacts more than one goal and listing all the impacts helps fully understand the scope of the issue.
In this example, there is potential risk of damage to the sleigh and injury to the big guy himself which would be an impact to the equipment goal and safety goal respectively. There was a delay in the present delivery schedule while Santa’s sleigh was on the ground, but the biggest concern was the impact to the customer service goal because millions of children had the potential to wake up to a Christmas morning without gifts, certainly something Santa and his elves desperately wanted to avoid. Once the Outline is completed, the Cause Map itself is built by starting at one impacted goal and asking “why” questions.
So why did Santa’s sleigh crash into Central Park? Santa’s sleigh crashed because it was high above the ground and it lost propulsion. Flying is the sleigh’s typical mode of operation because Santa needs a speedy, magical mode of transportation to do his job. The sleigh lost propulsion because both the primary and secondary propulsion systems failed.
Originally, Santa’s sleigh was powered purely by Christmas cheer, but levels of Christmas cheer have been steadily declining in modern times and a secondary system, a Kringle 3000, 500 Reindeer-Power jet engine, had to be added in the 1960s to keep the sleigh flying. On the Christmas in question, the level of Christmas cheer hit an all-time low and the strain on the jet engine mount was too great and it broke off. Without the jet engine, Santa’s sleigh crashed. Luckily, Buddy had told his friends that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear” and they were able to inspire enough folks to sing along with carols that Santa’s sleigh flew back into action and the children got their presents.
One would hope that the design of the jet engine was improved after this accident, but just to be safe and ensure that there are no sleigh crashes this year, make sure you sing plenty of Christmas carols loudly for all your friends and families to hear! And if you are concerned about Santa’s progress and want assurances that all is well, you can monitor his progress around the world at the NORAD Santa tracker.