Lean Principles On The Football Field

Lean Principles On The Football Field

Quarterback Shaun Carney rushing Image via Wikipedia

Football season has finally arrived and folks are once again engaged in weekly pigskin prognostication! Being a lean thinker and a huge football fan, I often have trouble watching a game without my lean eyes closely scrutinizing every process on the field. If you are a lean thinker and experience a similar dilemma, I would argue what better time than now to begin teaching lean to your friends and family while using the football game as a case study. One thing to remember when it comes to teaching lean: becoming lean is a journey. I would suggest teaching lean on a game-by-game basis.

Most lean thinkers agree that the best starting point to teaching lean is to focus on the importance of stability and standardization in value-added processes. Football is really no different. How many times have you ever heard the coach talk about his team needing to work on the “fundamentals of football” in order to improve their chances for success? Ah-ha! The coach is clearly talking about standardization and stability with play schemes and discipline. Specifically, each player on the field has standardized work processes to follow for his position. Consequently, stability is established and an offensive or defensive scheme can be implemented on the field. For example, the quarterback is responsible for making sure to throw the ball down field to a receiver who is not covered by the defensive player. Whether you’re a lean supply chain professional or a quarterback, if standard work processes are not followed correctly, the outcome is usually the same: an unstable environment where defects are likely to occur. In the case of the quarterback, an interception is likely to be thrown. Other examples of standardization and stability in football are the rules, field dimensions, and the use of referees to maintain control of the game.

Halftime is the ideal place to use the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) in football. In a lean enterprise, the PDCA cycle is a brilliant process tool used for solving problems and driving continuous improvement (Kaizen) efforts. In football, PDCA is essentially used in the same manner. For example, most teams enter the game with a strategy to win. This part is the “Plan” of the PDCA cycle. As the game begins, the strategy is rolled out on the field. This part is the “Do” of the cycle. During the game, unplanned issues may arise such as the opposing team quickly figuring out the other team’s strategy. Regardless of the circumstances, as halftime begins the coaches discuss what did and did not work with the original game plan. This part is the “Check” of the cycle. After discussing, the coaches decide to adjust the strategy for the 2nd half of the game. This part is the “Act” of the cycle.

As the game ends, the coaches are interviewed and discuss what went right and wrong and the need to improve for the next game. This time is a great opportunity to end the day’s lesson by explaining that in the lean enterprise, the coach’s response is referred to as “Hansei”. Hansei is defined as acknowledging mistakes and pledging to improve with modesty and humility. Your loved ones will begin to ask questions as the light bulbs go off! You’ve successfully sparked their interest. Good luck with teaching lean principles throughout the remainder of the season.

Written by Brent Rogers, Lean Deployment Executive at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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