We were intrigued by Mark Graban’s post in LeanBlog.org today, and the SQDC correlation of baseball’s recent safety steps and similar applications observed within Lean business applications. Are major league sports suffering from some of the same pitfalls faced by North American lean initiatives?
Two thoughts come to mind…
- It’s the people…Ask any company that has ventured down the lean path what its key to success or failure was and most will say it was employee engagement. Just as the NBA found out with the failure of their new ball introduction, durable gains in productivity and quality only come when your workforce is engaged in a continuous improvement culture. NBA commissioner David Stern’s attempt to improve the game failed, not because the initiative was poor, but simply because it was mandated. The contract that requires organizations to respectfully engage the operator as the expert was broken.
- It’s the process…The simple proactive act of respectfully engaging stakeholders and equipping them with the right toolset can make all the difference. It was author Timothey Gallwey (The Inner Game of Work) who made that connection for both sports and in business. He said “if you encourage someone to simply notice what is going on during the performance of the act (where they strike the ball relative to their feet in tennis, the lie of the ball in golf, or the important circumstances of the work environment), the person will quickly and easily find their own solution to becoming more effective”
As with many top down mandates, Major League Baseball’s new rule is a reaction to a tragedy. Many safety initiatives (and their subsequent integration within Lean) have also been the result of similar catastrophes. A proactive perspective into the real issues viewed with a 30-inch view will almost certainly exceed those done as a reactionary response.
In the end, safety cannot be a priority…it must be a value. Priorities change but values endure.