Earlier this year I wrote a post about how the New York Mets were changing their AAA affiliate from the Buffalo Bisons to the Las Vegas 51s and that they now have the longest distance between a AAA team and a parent MLB club.
I was interviewed for an article in The Toronto Star about how the Toronto Blue Jays, who became the parent club of the Buffalo Bisons, would reap the benefits of having their next-level minor league affiliate in such close proximity. From the article:
But a nearby affiliate means that when injuries arise the Jays no longer have to summon reinforcements from a destination that is three time zones and 3,150 kilometres away. Reducing time spent waiting for call-ups reduces the games played short-handed over the course of a 162-game season.
Check it out and have a great weekend!
Today we have another guest post, this time from fellow blogger Mark Graban of LeanBlog.org, one of the top-read blogs about Lean today. Mark is a Lean consultant in healthcare and frequent keynote speaker at conferences, but many of his blog posts also cover Lean topics in sports. He has even created an ebook of his posts about sports. I have contributed a handful of articles to his blog, and he and I collaborated on his LeanBlog podcast last month about Lean in sports. He was instrumental in my start as a Lean blogger and I’m extremely grateful for his support. Follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkGraban.
By Mark Graban, www.leanblog.org
Although he might call this a “clown post, bro” I am writing about Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and how he plowed full speed and face first into the outfield wall at Chavez Ravine on Monday night (article and video via Deadspin).
Harper is no longer a rookie, but you’d think he would know how to find the outfield wall… it’s called a warning track. As Deadspin said, “It’s called a warning track for a reason.” The warning was not heeded by Harper. Maybe he thought this was a rickety minor-league wall that he could run right through, as seen in this classic clip from the early 1990′s:
The now familiar warning track was first utilized in Old Yankee Stadium, where a running track probably just happened to be convenient for that purpose. The warning track was officially mandated by Major League Baseball in 1949 after earlier using sloped inclines to warn outfielders.
The standard warning track today is brown (or sometimes orange) dirt (or a polymer blend) that provides both a color contrast and tactile contrast from the outfield grass. As an outfielder speeds or lumbers toward the wall, peripheral vision and the feeling under foot tells the outfielder “warning: wall approaching.” The polymer blend also claims to give an audible “crunch” sound for the outfielder.
The international standards organization ASTM actually has a published standard for baseball warning tracks: “ASTM F2270 – 12 Standard Guide for Construction and Maintenance of Warning Track Areas on Athletic Fields” (how anal-retentive does that sound?).
It states, in part:
In order to provide for an effective warning track surface, the warning track must be constructed and maintained in such a manner so that the player can sense the change in texture from the regular playing surface and the warning track without having to look. This feature is very important in that the player is often visually focused on the ball during play and would not be looking at the ground as he/she is running toward the warning track. The warning track must also be constructed and maintained in such a manner that the warning track itself, or the surface transition, does not pose a hazard to the players.
Does not pose a hazard? That’s not always the case, apparently. New York Yankee Mark Teixiera blamed their stadium’s warning track for an injury to then-teammate Lance Berkman in 2010:
“That warning track around our stadium is very dangerous,” Mark Teixeira said Thursday of the synthetic surface. “It’s hard, it’s basically concrete with sand on top. It needs to be fixed.”
Berkman didn’t disagree with Teixeira, but he wasn’t as blunt. “It’s slick, it’s hard,” Berkman said. “I don’t have much experience with it, but most warning tracks are not that way.”
The warning track is supposed to be about 10 to 15 feet wide (or three full running strides), but there’s no exact standard for that, per MLB rules or the ASTM.
Earlier this year, the Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres played two exhibition games on a field crammed into the Alamodome’s football footprint. The stadium featured an incredibly short-porch right field of just 285 feet (with an non monster-like 16 foot wall).
When I was there for one game, I noticed how the “warning track” around the field was really just brown artificial turf. This clearly violates the ASTM standard, as it couldn’t possibly have a different texture than the outfield “grass.” I don’t think this caused any injuries, but it was just two meaningless games (although some have criticized Harper for playing too aggressively with a 6-0 lead… just play it off the wall, bro).
The ASTM standard, by the way, says you CAN have a turf warning track IF it surrounds a “skinned” (or dirt) area, such as the infield for software. Not the case at the Alamodome.
So what’s the takeaway that’s relevant to those using the Lean methodology? The lesson is that warning signs don’t always work in any workplace. I’ve collected a number of signs on one of my blogs, “Be More Careful!”
There’s one sports-related sign, one that I found sitting in the center field bleachers at Wrigley Field – if you wander up and sit behind/under the famous manually-operated scoreboard. Sitting there, if there were an exciting play (not likely, considering the Cubs), a fan would easily jump up (forgetting the sign) and bump their head.
I once saw a glass wall/window at a hospital that had a warning, as if the employees and visitors were birds – “Don’t walk into me… please!” Could be helpful on outfield walls perhaps.
This warning sign on a piece of pharmacy automation warned workers against putting their hands inside the machine when it was running. A truly Lean environment (and your average non-Lean factory) would be sure to have equipment that could NOT be opened while running. We’d call this “mistake proofing” (or “poka yoke” in Japanese).
It’s better to have a process where it’s impossible to make a mistake rather than relying on people to be careful. We are more likely to have perfect processes than perfect people. The Toyota Production System produces better products because they build in quality rather than trying to inspect it in at the end of the line. They don’t have more warning signs or more inspectors – they have better process. There’s quite a history of this at Toyota, going back to the days before they made cars, even.
In the case of serious surgical errors, it’s apparent how warning signs would probably not be effective. If they were, we could just post a bunch of signs everywhere, including one that says, “Warning! Don’t operate on the wrong side of the patient’s brain” – as errors like this occur all too often.
Hospitals don’t post warning signs that say, “Caution: Don’t give the babies the wrong medication” or “Warning! Don’t mix up the laboratory specimens.” I’m glad they don’t have signs like this because they wouldn’t be effective.
Warning signs are pretty useless. ESPN even wrote that “warning tracks are useless.” At best, warning signs are a last resort – to be used only if you can’t find any way to error proof the problem. Warning tracks seem to fit into that category. It might not be 100% effective, but it’s better than not having a track.
Bryce Harper KNEW the wall was there (he can’t be that dumb, bro). He just forgot in the moment. That’s often how errors occur, whether it’s a medical error or forgetting to set the flaps on a plane before takeoff or hitting a Boston overpass with your bus, even though there was a warning sign (a lesson in error proofing that had fallen into disrepair).
We’re all exceptionally human. We make mistakes. I just don’t know how you truly error proof against running into the outfield wall.
I guess a Lean countermeasure would be making sure the wall had enough padding (Harper hit a section of scoreboard in the Dodger Stadium wall). I’m sure there is an ASTM standard on the thickness and softness of wall padding? Maybe to be explored in a future blog post…
Let’s be careful out there.
As reported in March, the ice maintenance system at James Brown Arena in Augusta broke down and forced the Augusta RiverHawks minor league hockey team to relocate their games to another Augusta-based hockey rink for the remainder of their season. There was also a good chance the repairs would be so costly that the arena would choose not to implement the repair and force the RiverHawks to leave town or cease operations all together.
Yesterday it was announced that the RiverHawks would follow the latter. A statement from owner Bob Kerzner:
The Augusta RiverHawks organization regrets to announce that we will not be playing in Augusta next season.
After waiting over two and a half months, the League deadline to commit to play next year is at hand and a decision needed to be made. We, as an organization, have not received any positive information concerning the replacement of the ice system at the James Brown Arena. A May 12th deadline was communicated to the building manager back at the end of March or the beginning of April. We also have not received any information concerning monetary compensation for the loss of the Arena for the eight games that were to be played in the James Brown Arena in March of this year.
We are taking a leave from League play with the approval from the League’s governors for one season. Hopefully, something can be done in the greater CSRA to bring hockey back the following year. We will retain our franchise.
To recap the situation, the system of pumps, tanks, and pipes below the ice at James Brown Arena has allegedly outlived its stated useful life and in the middle of the season the system broke down (pipes in the ice broke, and apparently more breakage elsewhere in the system). The team was forced to play the remainder of their home games in another arena with significantly lower fan capacity, so attendance was limited to season ticket holders and sponsors. The cost of the repair/replacement system will be north of $1M and since the team was leasing the space at James Brown Arena the costs don’t all fall back on the team itself.
A last ditch attempt to see how the costs could be covered:
Kerzner said he was told insurance would not cover the cost of the system, meaning another process will be needed to determine whether it will be fixed.
It’s just a bad situation overall, but it also goes to show you how poor quality can be the nail in the coffin for any organization, whether it’s sports or traditional business.
Proper maintenance of the ice system (and by “proper” maintenance I mean fixing all the problems right when they occur, applying preventative maintenance to the system as well as scheduled maintenance, use of the Total Productive Maintenance philosophies) could have potentially extended the life of the system. Proper problem identification, immediate and correct repair to problems, and adequate attention to ways to improve the system is the difference between a car being in service for 20-30 years and having to replace a car every 10 years or so.
By not applying proper maintenance (which might run, I don’t know, $50-75K per year?) the situation became so much more costly (replacement north of $1M), but it also meant loss of ticket sales (move to lower-capacity arena, and the attendees are those who already had tickets purchased) and a team no longer using your arena.
I don’t see the RiverHawks ever coming back to Augusta, even after the upcoming season. If a new ice system is implemented at JBA, it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. Penny wise, dollar foolish.
The ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement closed last Wednesday and now that I’m finally back I’m going to cover some of the things I saw and experienced.
My primary responsibility for the conference was as a judge for the International Team Excellence Awards. The ITEA is a competition on improvement and project management that follows criteria very similar to the Malcolm Baldrige process excellence criteria. Teams from companies and organizations all over the world submit and provide presentations on a project where they have been successful in applying the project management principles. Teams are judged less on their final results and more on following the criteria and specifying the who/how/what/why of seamless integration of their projects.
I have been a judge in the preliminary rounds in Jacksonville, Boulder, and Charlotte the last three years and this was my first opportunity to attend the Finals held at the WCQI every year. We as judges digest a lot of information from the presentations and ask a lot of questions, but then rate the presentations according to how well they met or exceeded each item in the criteria (which is lengthy). Teams with top scores win prizes and recognition on the ASQ website – here are some of the winning presentations from the past.
This is a really neat process, and it would be great for more teams to enter the competition. If nothing else, the project management framework and criteria are phenomenal and are applicable to any improvement project. Even if teams didn’t enter the competition the framework should be a tool kept readily available for other internal projects.
I had the pleasure of grabbing drinks with Lean consultant/author and ASQ WCQI keynote speaker Karen Martin on Monday evening at Shula’s Restaurant downtown. She is the author of The Outstanding Organization and would be heading to Utah early Tuesday morning to accept the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award for her book. (In Lean circles, this is the equivalent of winning the home run title.) She and I have been “Twitter buddies” for a while and this was the first time we had the chance to meet in person.
We talked for a couple hours about how TOO has made a difference for her readers and for her as she’s won the Shingo Award, but we also talked about some other projects she has on the horizon which include additional books. She also gave some fantastic advice on how to approach the activities of consulting as a whole and talked about the podcasts we’ve both recorded with Mark Graban (hers is here, mine is here). We are also looking at doing a blog co-post on our experiences as owners of Audi automobiles – we both have some interesting things to share.
Swag giveaways at conferences can be great or run-of-the-mill – conference trade show booth operators and marketing gurus, take note. This year at the conference we had the standard giveaways of company pens/fliers/business cards and Post-It Notes, maybe some 30-day trials of software here and there. We even had booths giving away cash prizes and iPads to one lucky winner. I’m part of the Lean Enterprise Division of ASQ and “my” booth was giving away t-shirts…to attendees who were already members of the division. Not much of a recruitment tool.
However, the biggest buzz and attention were around the unique giveaways. My favorites were the stress ball bulldozers from the ASQ Design & Construction Division.
I get that ASQ trade show booth operators don’t really lend themselves to marketing buzz and excitement – it’s hard to find “fun” in food/cosmetics/pharmaceuticals that don’t involve illegal activities or actionable passion in auditing – but this is where investment in outside marketing might make a significant impression.
Besides, how else am I going to collect great swag to give away to subscribers next year? (Yes, I’m giving away some squeezy bulldozers next time around.)
ASQ has started a subgroup for young members called Young Quality Professionals. I had the chance to meet with a handful of YQP’s organizers Monday evening for a drink and discussion.
There is a BIG talent and membership vacuum with ASQ right now – less than 10% of the ASQ membership is younger than 30 years old (so I’ve been told) while membership demographics are heavily skewed toward those who are approaching retirement age. Once those aging members leave the organization, ASQ membership will drop significantly. Because the skew exists today, very little attention is being paid to the new quality professionals and a tiny percentage of ASQ activities are designed to actively engage the younger segments.
If ASQ continues to operate as it does today, the membership bottom will fall out in the next 5-10 years and great conferences like this will not have as much clout. Most importantly, a collective global focus and critical mass will dissipate, and ASQ will struggle.
It’s a good thing that ASQ recognizes this upcoming problem and is making strides to fix this by creating YQP, but what is clear is that YQP doesn’t have a strategy. We youngsters (I’m 33 but including myself anyway) are not much different from generations older than us, we just receive information differently. Technology has changed how we communicate and operate. That being said, YQP can’t consist of one guy writing blog posts into a vacuum of no audience, and simply creating a social media presence. YQP requires a strategy that takes into account the needs/desires of the younger demographic AND connects them with the resources that satisfy those needs.
I have been asked to help ASQ and YQP on developing this strategy so that the mission and results of YQP are clearly defined and can be used as a recruiting tool.
This is a critical time for ASQ’s future – the drive and desire are there to make differences, but the know-how and organization is missing. I’m confident our efforts will be successful, but we must act quickly.
I was only able to see one full keynote presentation while I was in Indianapolis. It was the final speaker, Sally Hogshead, but her event was great.
The purpose of her talk was to understand how the world sees all of us – how we are able to fascinate our network based on our personality types. She had participants complete a personality survey before her talk and identify the archetype and triggers of our personality – passion, power, trust, mystique, prestige, alarm, and rebellion.
She showed the data of the ASQ conference attendees (how many of us fall into which archetype) versus the rest of the population who has taken her survey and we as a whole were significantly skewed toward trust, passion and prestige. I, on the other hand, lean toward mystique and rebellion. That sounds about right – I have intense focus on showing others how to change for the better, but I also don’t give away all my secrets.
Before attending Sally’s talk I had the chance to record an interview with the ASQ Quality for Life group. They share videos of individuals who tell their stories of how quality has been useful in their professional and personal lives. I, of course, talked about how Lean and continuous improvement can be applied in sports. I will share that video when it goes live in the coming months.
Next year’s WCQI will be held in Dallas – I hope I’m able to attend again!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out in the world – if it wasn’t for your mother, you wouldn’t be here to read this.
It’s an understatement that my mom is the glue that holds the family together. In my years she’s certainly been a jack-of-all-trades – fixing, coaching, teaching, preparing, managing, disciplining, facilitating, transporting, listening, everything.
While I hadn’t really thought of her in the past as a “Lean thinker” maybe I should reconsider. What can my mom possibly teach me about Lean?
- Strategic thinking
Early on in our development, she was thinking about how short-term decisions could impact the long-term results for me and my siblings – schools to attend, classes to choose, activities, after-school supervision, and so on.
- Cross-training and versatility
As previously mentioned, she certainly continues to operate as a jack-of-all-trades and seeks to solve problems by any means necessary. She might not have known about root cause analysis or the fishbone diagram, but her reasoning was always solid.
- Use the right tool for the job
She is not particularly mechanically inclined but she is a stickler for following the instructions, which means using the proper tool and not improvising. I don’t recall a project she ever left unfinished, especially as a result of not having the right tool to begin with.
- Activity and task balancing
She had to manage her schedule as it fit the family’s needs and duties – dropping off and picking up from our many activities like basketball practice or rehearsals or marching band competitions, shopping for food and clothing, cooking meals, cleaning everything, yet still having the time to spend with us directly.
- The importance of cleanliness and organization
No matter how much 5S training I’ve had or provided, no one (me included) can keep a house clean and organized (yet also warm and functional) like my mom. Maybe it should be her providing the 5S training…
- Early development and support, and teaching by example
While I don’t remember these activities specifically, our mom worked with us at a very early age on basic learning activities like hand-eye coordination, phonics, communication, mathematics, and interpersonal relations (er, sharing our toys with one another). The earlier those teachings are accepted and adopted by the learners, the faster the benefits from doing so are reaped (reading early, faster comprehension, accelerated absorption of facts).
- Visual management
Mom would measure our heights in a door frame and draw pencil lines with names/dates to measure our growth over time.
- Rewarding good behavior
It wasn’t particularly often that she had to punish bad behavior, but when we did well (good grades on report cards, finishing chores, and the like) we were rewarded with candy or allowances.
- People aren’t interchangeable parts
None of us were ever treated just like the other siblings. Rewards were different, as were punishments. Our chosen activities were different. Clearly our personalities were different. In order to achieve the expected end results we all had to be handled in different manners.
- Doing what’s right versus what’s most popular
Believe it or not, we weren’t ever particularly big fans of the studio portrait sittings. However, we needed photos to send to family so despite our protests (read: crying) we complied (eventually). Now we can look back and laugh.
Also, it’s cliche, but she was a stickler for not letting us ruin our dinner by splurging on after-school treats.
- Time studies
When our mom would drive us to school we could watch the clock and based on elapsed time displayed by the time we passed certain landmarks on our trips we could tell if we were ahead or behind schedule and if we would be late or on time.
- Safety first
Mom would always show us the proper and safe way to do things, and reacted with excellent quality first aid when we didn’t follow her lead.
This list could go on and on…but in the end, she’s a Lean thinker and she might not even know it.
Happy Mother’s Day!
- The Marathon: As I stated earlier, I’m a Boston girl. So logically, the place to start is the Boston Marathon. As Stephen Colbert so expertly stated after the bombing attacks: “an event celebrating people who run 26 miles on their day off…for fun!” The passion of people who work in Lean is extraordinary. Yes, it may be part of our jobs, but when we leave work we continue to nurture our skills. We “train” by reading blogs and books, writing our own blogs, attending conferences, and using Twitter to share ideas with the Lean community. We do it to push ourselves; challenge ourselves. For fun.
- Basketball: One of the first things I learned playing basketball is “I’m open!” You hold your hands out in front of your chest, palms forward, ready to catch the ball. You are signaling the point guard and teammates you are ready to help them move the ball closer to the hoop for a potential score. As a Lean practitioner you are support to your team, business, client, etc. Signal your teammates you are ready and able to help them reach their goals.
- Track & Field: How heartbreaking is it to watch an Olympian lose a medal because they stepped out of their lane. Let this be a lesson for all of us: Focus on your lane. If you spend too much time comparing your performance to the other “runners” you’ll lose sight of your own personal goals.
- Golf: I started playing golf last year and spent a lot of time swinging the club as hard as I could at the ball in the direction of the hole (I hoped). I then started working on tailoring my swing strength to the need at that moment and adjusting my tools, the clubs, to meet the requirements of the situation. Golf is teaching me patience, practice, it’s OK not to be perfect right away, and t0 tailor your actions and tools to the needs of a specific situation.
- Softball: You know the saying, “don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” I recently joined a softball team, having never played before, because I wanted a new challenge and a new outlet to network with young professionals. Was I nervous not knowing anyone and having little experience – yes! But it is helping me grow as a person and challenging me in a new way. Embrace challenges and new assignments at work – they will only help you learn and grow in unexpected ways.
- Curling: Ever watched curling? You’ll spend a lot of time wondering what is going on and how it is even a sport. People are confused by and hesitant to approach things they don’t understand. This is a common struggle with Lean – often dealing with people who don’t think it is a “real” job and spending time explaining the concepts of Lean. The best you can do is embrace your passion and knowledge for Lean, get out there and play, drive results, and do your best to educate people on the playbook of Lean. It can happen! Case in point – after a few minutes on Wikipedia, I spent an entire day glued to curling during the last Olympics. All it took was a little understanding of the rules and strategies to win for me to embrace the new.
As with most sports, it isn’t about the superstar, or the individual. It is how the team as a whole performs. Working in Lean you are part of a bigger picture of business success. What are your strengths and skills you bring to your team each day? Are you executing to the game plan? And in what areas do you need more practice? Athletes train for what they want to achieve, so can we.
Greetings from Indianapolis!
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) is holding the 2013 World Conference on Quality and Improvement at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, and I am in attendance to judge the final round presentations of the International Team Excellence Awards.
I expect to check in from time to time on Twitter over the next three days but tomorrow I will be sharing the very first guest post on the Lean Blitz blog in my absence.
Of course, if you are in attendance, please look for me and say hello! I’ll be sporting these:
The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia was initiated by an uprising of servicemen’s families during the Vietnam War who demanded that action be taken to rescue and recover captured prisoners of war or those missing in action so that family resolution and closure could be achieved. The now famous POW-MIA flag is a symbol of the efforts of both the United States government and the National League of Families to bring prisoners of war or their remains home. The message of “You Are Not Forgotten” rings true in this mission.
Companies are initially drawn toward certain benefits of Lean – cost savings, cleanliness, organization, high quality, consistent processes. They say “We need to go Lean!” but don’t really have a plan for doing so. They also think it’s something simple to do, like flipping a switch. When the investment of time and money aren’t turning into cost savings, improvements can fall by the wayside and Lean is considered a failure.
However, what is often forgotten by companies/organizations is that they need to focus our processes and improvements on the reason we get paid – by providing value to the customer. We spend our efforts on simply doing things faster or with fewer resources, but the highest priority instead needs to be “What does the customer require from us?”
When it comes to Lean implementation, there is an obsession with the by-products of Lean (moving faster, cost reductions) but they only matter as long as the improvements add value to the customer.
Providing customer value means giving the customer what they want, when they want it, where they want it, in the manner they want it. If you can verify you can do exactly that, why would you try to do or improve anything but that?
Do we already provide what the customer wants? If not, should we?
Can we give the customer what they want in the timeframe they request?
What are the specific requirements of their request? Any special needs? Can we meet them?
The best and most worthwhile improvements come when the improvement not only adds value for the customer but also when it improves the process by which we provide that value. Implementing expensive infrastructure internally (such as a new MRP system or sophisticated automation) might give the customer their value faster, but if it’s not cost effective for us we shouldn’t do it either.
The two worst things an organization can do is a) fail to meet the customer requirements for adding value (slow delivery, provide the wrong product/service, simply fall short of adding value) despite promising to meet it, and b) overhauling infrastructure to meet the customer expectation when it’s not cost effective to do so.
So never forget – we must know what adds customer value first. We only learn that from the customer. THEN we determine what needs improvement after we find out. It all starts with the customer. The suppliers who can achieve delivery of that value while providing it in the most efficient and cost effective way possible will reap the biggest benefits of doing so.
We have been inundated with the story of Manti Te’o and the girlfriend hoax, especially this past weekend as the NFL Draft unfolded.
Te’o is one of the most award-decorated players in college football history, as he led Notre Dame to a 12-0 regular season record and the BCS Championship Game. Everything seemed to unravel for him once the championship game kicked off – the Irish were dismantled by Alabama handily, the girlfriend hoax came to light, and he had a mediocre showing at the NFL combine with slower-than-projected numbers.
Those three elements – the NFL Combine, the BCS Championship, and the hoax – all played some part in Te’o falling from a high first round draft pick all the way to the second round, the 38th pick overall. By falling so far, he has missed out on millions of guaranteed dollars from a rookie contract and potential endorsement deals.
We can’t be sure how the weight of each of those elements impacted his draft stock, but we can certainly glean that the hoax was not an insignificant piece of the puzzle (despite NFL teams continuing to draft players with character issues in the high rounds as long as they are able to produce on the field).
Let Manti Te’o and the hoax be a cautionary tale of not applying genchi genbutsu.
Genchi genbutsu is the idea of going and seeing the facts for yourself. It translates literally from Japanese as “actual place, actual thing.” In a business setting, where there is a high reliance on data and reports, there is significant advantage to be gained by looking past the data and going to see the situations for one’s self. Genchi genbutsu helps to put a realistic visual spin on mundane, feeling-less data and information. Genchi genbutsu helps to add meaning to what the shared information is trying to tell us.
In a manufacturing setting, for example, it is beneficial to go and see a production problem firsthand instead of just relying on what an associate told you. Watch the problem in action. If scrap is the indicated problem, watch how much is being produced and see if it’s possible to identify why. If supplies are unbalanced and are causing line shutdowns, go see why.
In Manti Te’o's defense, he made attempts and overtures to go and see Lennay Kekua himself, but each time he was unsuccessful in his quest. Obviously we now know why – she never existed, and the whole story is extremely twisted – but because somehow the existence of a girlfriend and her sad backstory made for compelling media fodder made the fact that Manti had never met her even harder to see and for Manti to publicly share.
The fact that the truth never came out while the story was getting bigger and bigger made the fall that much harder. And it certainly contributed to some of the fall of Manti in the NFL Draft.
So what can you learn from this? Apply the concept of genchi genbutsu to go and see the scenario for yourself instead of simply relying on faceless data or a secondhand report to get a better understanding of what’s truly going on.
We have contacted all of the winners of the Masters pin flag giveaway but are still waiting on confirmations from the recipients. Once all winners have been identified and acknowledged they will be announced!
Lean is the operational management philosophy about providing exactly what the client wants, when they want it, and in the condition/location where they want it, all while doing it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible through reduction of waste activities.
Part of the process of making a sale with a client is being ready and available to receive their request for a purchase or inquiry. A broken process or failure to be ready to receive the request could potentially mean a lost sale.
A minor league baseball team’s primary sources of revenue outside of the stadium gates and games in progress are ticket sales and sponsorship sales. To communicate the sales opportunity for tickets between fans and the team, account executives either make outgoing calls or fans call/email the team or purchase tickets online. In order for those methods to work, you need to have means of communicating contact information with the team, whether that’s through a website or Yellow Pages or Google search.
Yesterday I needed to talk with someone with the Augusta GreenJackets, but not to buy tickets. I did not have their primary phone number handy. I elected to visit their website to find the phone number.
I first checked the home page of the site.
I did not see a phone number there. Maybe a phone number at the bottom? Some company websites have a “contact” link at the bottom of their page.
Nothing there. How about the “about” section?
Would the ticket sales page have the phone number?
No, but you can purchase tickets online…and you have a link to their 2012 game schedule. Why? What good will that do us now that the 2013 season has started?
How about information on the stadium, Lake Olmstead Stadium?
Okay, back to the main page. I scrolled down a little bit and finally found it.
There it is, a phone number tucked away in a 2012 team update section about buying game-worn jerseys. It is noteworthy that the contact email for the individual selling the jerseys is no longer with the team – anyone wanting a 2012 jersey emailing that person would probably be out of luck.
Where else is the main phone number? On the page for the GreenJackets team staff, which you find by hovering over “About Us” and clicking “GreenJackets Staff.”
It took a long series of clicks to find the phone number, and even still the number wasn’t so easy to spot. The sales funnel is very hard to find. If I was a random individual looking to call about tickets, I might have given up three clicks ago.
The website is the face of the team when the games aren’t being played and when tickets aren’t being taken at the gate. A website failing to present critical sales communication information is indicative of a broken sales process and it must be remedied, or else you might find your sales funnel isn’t so solid.
One of the ways that we are driving climate change negatively is through the excessive or unnecessary consumption of finite resources. I use both excessive and unnecessary in that explanation because not only do we consume more than we need but we also consume resources when we don’t really need to at all.
Excessive consumption gets a lot of attention – turn off the lights when you’re not using them, carpool for your commutes, and the like – but how often do we manufacture or assemble items and materials when we shouldn’t be producing them at all?
Lean is a customer-focused operational management philosophy based on providing to the customer exactly what the customer wants, when the customer wants it, and in the condition the customer wants it. Based on customer expectations, Lean cuts out unnecessary waste activities in processes so that giving the customer what they want is done in a more timely and efficient manner. Reducing waste activities means conserving energy and resources and not using them for things the customer does not want. By not adhering to the customer expectations, companies run the risk of becoming more and more wasteful.
So shouldn’t Lean be considered a key player in any Earth Day initiative? How are Lean and Earth Day intertwined?
- Making items exactly as the customer wants them means you aren’t producing defects – a defect is a condition in a product or service that a customer refuses to accept, thereby the energy and materials used in the defect are either wasted and scrapped or must be reworked which requires more time and energy. Zero defect production saves energy and time.
- Producing more than what the customer requires means a buildup of inventory. Inventory production requires materials and energy, and excess inventory means those resources were consumed in advance of when they would actually be needed by the customer (if at all). Excess inventory consumes space, and space is finite.
And how about inventory that has a short shelf life? A baseball team producing hot dogs well in advance of when they’d be purchased or eaten means many hot dogs would have to be thrown away after ballgames. All the energy used to produce the bun and bratwurst, the heat energy used to cook the food…all trashed.
- Inventory sitting on shelves has to wait and wait and wait for the customer to order it.
- Excessive transportation stems from not having materials and products in the exact location where they are needed by a customer (internally or externally). Isn’t it “more green” to use a local supplier of materials or components than to go with the “low cost” route of having them made in China (with far less stringent environmental standards than the US) then shipped here by large boat? Not only that, local suppliers have shorter lead times because it doesn’t take them an extra two or three weeks to arrive from across the seas.
All of the Lean wastes have resource ties to their costs – human capital, energy, and time. By being smarter about our processes and being strategic in our sourcing, we can reduce the environmental impacts we have very quickly.
(PS – we are drawing entries for the Masters pin flag giveaway and will be contacting recipients shortly. Be on the lookout for an email!)
However, they serve as a reminder that simply throwing money at a problem does not always fix the problem. Proper application of root cause analysis DOES raise the odds considerably on solving the problem, and often at a much lower price.
If the Marlins had a team strategy (team on the field and organizational plan for butts-in-seats) and filtered all activities into following that strategy, and continued to follow that strategy without changing course at the first moment of weakness, the organization might not be in the situation it’s in right now – 3-12 record, horrible attendance, dreadful treatment of patrons who actually attend, pitiful PR.
One of the questions asked in the ESPN article linked above is “(Owner) Jeffrey Loria has taking a lot of heat for his excessive spending, but is he fully to blame for the Marlins financial woes?” (See the photo caption in the article.)
Yesterday Mark Graban “live blogged” a talk by author Art Byrne at the AME Spring Conference, who reinforced the importance of continuous improvement starting at the top. By “top” he doesn’t mean VP of Ops, he means the CEO or owner. There is no delegating of the importance of continuous improvement.
Art’s quotes blow my mind. He is an absolutely brilliant author and Lean thinker, and reading what Mark has transcribed has changed a lot of the way I look at Lean as a fundamental operational philosophy. (Hey, we all have so much to learn.)
So the team spent like crazy at the 2011-2012 offseason, then shed all those expensive contracts to a tune of cutting payroll by $73M, the biggest one-year cut in MLB history. Why did the team do this? Because of the strategy set forth by Loria.
So yes…Loria is pretty well the reason the Marlins do what they do to their players, their fans, and MLB in total.
While I wouldn’t expect the Marlins to operate like a Lean organization, there is a lot the team can learn from Art Byrne and Lean thinkers about strategy and keeping the customer first.
We’re also giving away 2013 Masters pin flags – click here to learn more!
You’re in a rowboat that has sprung a leak and is taking in water. You’re rowing to shore but a couple miles away. What are your options?
- You can keep rowing, continue taking on water until the boat sinks, then start swimming
- You can stop rowing and start bailing water by hand
- You can stop rowing and plug the leak with your hand
- You can stop rowing and fix the leak by other means
Here are the results of those decisions and your means of getting back to shore.
By continuing to row and ignoring the problem, you miiiight make it to your destination but your equipment will be in shambles and potentially forever useless. In addition, resulting equipment loss means you can’t finish without a lot of manual intervention (swimming) and discomfort (I’d rather be dry than wet). If you ever want to row again, you’ll have to replace the boat.
By stopping to bail water, you work on handling the output of the problem but you don’t move forward. What if more leaks spring up while bailing from the original leak? Now you have to work even harder…just to stay in place and not sink. You might end up bailing out water forever and never get to the end of your journey.
If you stop rowing and plug the leak with your hand as a stopgap, you might have cut your momentum in half because you can only row with one arm. You could move half as fast as before getting to shore and might make it safely, but you also run the risk of rowing in circles. You exert a lot more effort to complete your expedition.
If you stop rowing and work to fix the leak, not only do you stop moving forward during that time but you also probably take on more water for a time. That can be scary, seeing your situation get a little worse and not moving forward, However, by investigating the leak and trying to solve it once and for all (seal with tape for now or plug a big hole with wadded up clothing before getting to shore to nail a new board or weld a seal shut) you’ve invested a little time and security in fixing the issue while also making rowing resources available in full (use of both arms!) to get back to shore.
Aren’t these multiple approaches to addressing problems in processes? You can ignore a problem and just keep grinding out productivity, but it will continue to dwindle as the problem remains and possibly becomes irreparable. You can work on the problem but it will continue to rear its ugly head because it isn’t adequately fixed – a temporary approach until it comes back. You can use manual intervention as a stopgap, where automation is broken we can just throw bodies at manual assembly or handling manual tasks, but you’ve also cut back on your human capital and capacity.
But by investing in a Kaizen event to address big problems, yes, you might lose a little productivity right away because those operators have stepped away from their job function and the problem will exist…temporarily. However, by investing a little time and productivity early means the problem could potentially go away forever if it’s fixed properly and it’s smooth sailing from then on. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
This says little about the Kaizen mindset, which would mean process users are addressing problems they see right away and personally convening outside assistance without employing a full-on “Kaizen event” and not necessarily having to stop the process functionality as needed for very long. The Kaizen mindset needs little formality, but at least with a formal Kaizen event you can sacrifice a little now so that the long-term results are better. The Kaizen mindset is ideal, but where a Kaizen event would help solve the problem collectively, make the temporary investment.
We’re also giving away 2013 Masters pin flags – click here to learn more!
The Masters offers a great glimpse into how a sports organization can optimize the customer experience through process optimization. They do so many things well (but no one is perfect).
Just as we did last year, we are giving away pin flags from the 2013 Masters to Lean Blitz subscribers – only this time we’re throwing in a lot more!
We’re giving away three pin flags with some extra Masters goodies, but we’re expanding our winners list with some extra gear we’ve obtained over the last twelve months!
Three randomly-drawn subscribers will receive:
- A 2013 Masters pin flag
– A set of five Masters golf tees
– The official 2013 Masters Spectator Guide
– And more!
In addition, we’re drawing for additional gear packages including:
- An assortment of marketing swag such as media guides, programs, hats, can coozies, golf towels, etc.
– A set of five Masters golf tees
– The official 2013 Masters Spectator Guide
The easiest ways to enter are to subscribe to the Lean Blitz blog via email in the righthand column (and no, your email is never, ever sold or used for anything other than sending blog posts), following Lean Blitz on Twitter (@LeanBlitz), and by liking the Lean Blitz page on Facebook.
There are more ways to enter and increase your chances of winning! Click here for more details – the last day to enter the drawing is Friday, April 19th!
Thank you for following the Lean Blitz blog – it’s been a fun eighteen months so far!
Masters Week has finally come and gone! All of the golf world descended upon Augusta, Georgia for April 8-14 for the 2013 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Now we close out with a couple remaining tidbits from the week that was.
Once again, Augusta National Golf Club put on a demonstration this week with The Masters on how to run an event for a sports organization right – such a heavy emphasis on the customer experience was the overarching goal and it was certainly achieved.
However, Augusta National Golf Club wasn’t perfect. They deployed a couple of questionable operations strategies, one of which was the use of temporary labor.
The club has a full-time staff, a series of volunteers who are on site just for the tournament, and droves of temporary labor in the golf shop, the concession stands, in grounds sanitation, and with security.
The volunteers for the tournament – grounds crew, supervisors, golf course superintendents, shot charters, gallery control, manual scoreboard operators, etc. – come from miles and miles away to be up close to the action. The volunteers have (almost) all been doing these same roles at The Masters for multiple years so they are skilled at what they do. (Why do they volunteer? Besides being up close and integral parts of the operation, because of very special and unique benefits I’m not going to publish here, but trust me when I say they are special privileges.)
The temporary staffs in the golf shop, concessions operations, grounds sanitation, and security are all paid (and don’t receive the special privileges). These staffs are mostly younger kids, in high school or college in the local area (Augusta schools coordinate spring break with The Masters – have you tried driving a busload of kids through Masters traffic?) or folks looking to make some extra money. All temporary labor personnel go through training prior to the week of The Masters.
Operation of the golf shop, concessions, and grounds sanitation are very straight-forward, and so the training is pretty standard. The processes are similar to those in stores and restaurants, as well as your nearest Adopt-A-Highway sign.
However, security is a completely different animal. Lots of special rules, regulations, badge colors, permissible areas versus non-permissible, scanners, metal detectors, cross here not there, guests on lists, gallery control, and on and on. On top of that, the security personnel also play such a critical role in maintaining the customer experience at a high level, and the processes are much more difficult and non-standard relative to the other temporary operations on the course.
Because of the specialized security needs for The Masters, ANGC subcontracts the security out to Securitas. Securitas then has to account for the big spike in their security personnel demand by hiring temporary security personnel themselves. In years past the security procedures and their enforcement has been fine, but this year there was a noted lack of training and experience in handling this event. Many inconsistent applications of protocols (security guards disagreeing on procedures), unbalanced deployment across the course, disruption of experience (fans being pulled away by security guards misunderstanding procedures), and so on. I have permissions to go into certain areas of the course that others don’t, which in years past has not been an issue but this year I was stopped just about every time I stepped into non-patron areas (including being dragged to the security office) and I wasn’t alone in this frustration.
This graphic shows a general idea of how to categorize certain job functions. The key value-adding components of a workforce should lie either in the Core category (the strategic activities, and the reason your company exists to add value to its clients) and the Noncore-Critical category (a combination of strategy and support activities, the functions that you MUST have in order to properly add value to clients).
The Noncore-Noncritical category of functions includes those that don’t specifically add value to clients but are important for maintaining basic necessities like safety. These activities are almost completely tactical, plug-and-chug, replaceable functions. Notice that security falls into this category (as would concessions, janitorial, and golf shop activities).
What is important about the Noncore-Noncritical functions is that those processes need to be very specific and repeatable. They must be standardized and understood by all in those functions. Lack of objectivity in their application means that managers are spending more time in non-critical functions instead of worrying about more value-adding applications. Temporary labor should almost entirely fall into this category.
For ANGC and The Masters, there are two potential schools of thought for improvement with security.
One, as is previously defined, security protocols should be very specific and repeatable and understood by all. There should be no disagreement, the processes should be standardized, and the attention to detail and doing things one way should be great because they are in the Noncore-Noncritical category.
Two, maybe for such a special sporting event, security should NOT be in the Noncore-Noncritical category and should be bumped to Noncore-Critical (not quite Core because it is not a value-adding function to customers). In that case, not only should the processes and protocols be standardized and documented, but they should also be highly scrutinized year in and year out and experienced personnel should be placed in those roles. Outsourcing of security to Securitas should have tighter controls and ANGC should work with Securitas more to make sure only specially-trained personnel are granted positions.
I don’t know if there were any big security issues for this year’s Masters Tournament, but with the use of undertrained temporary security officers and lack of very specific security protocols in places the opportunity for problems could have reared its head.
We’re also giving away 2013 Masters pin flags – click here to learn more!