I soon realized that the best perspective was to see students as the raw materials coming in, and an hour later, finished goods going out the door as surfers. The school was the factory and the instructors, the processes. The batch was about 12 students per session -- like a dozen in a box.
Now it's a good solid Lean foundation to focus on the customer, but focusing on them as an inanimate object to run through your organizational "machine" seems like something that would make Taiichi Ohno do a facepalm.
The article continues on to state all the positive results of their lean transformation - reduced cycle time, greater throughput, increased profits! I'm glad for their successes but it also seems like they just commoditized surfing instruction. They have essentially transformed themselves into the McDonald's of surfing instruction.
McDonald's is off course a very profitable company. But if you're changing your business model to emulate the Golden Arches, it should be a conscious decision, not a byproduct of using process improvement tools.
More importantly, I think your starting point of Lean should be the treating the customer as an actual human being. McD's can have faster processes and impressive supply chains, but they are also the organization that served scolding hot coffee and irradiated pink slime to its customer as well. Not an ethical example that most business owners would want to follow.
Both of those issues point back to the purpose of the organization. Don't forget your WHY, that is the guiding force behind your HOW & WHAT. If your guiding principle is off, which I think it is, it will make a big difference in the long run.
Maybe the surf school will continue to do well in the future. Or maybe their "machine" will breakdown when the market shifts and they aren't responsive enough when their living "raw materials" change their minds and go elsewhere.
I encourage you read the article yourself to come to your own conclusion. I'd be interested in hearing what your take on it would be.