The SMED-ing of Football

I was looking for a change of pace for the whole Pit Crew/Racing example used to illustrate the SMED process.   Maybe I just got frustrated with it because, although it does show an example of a fast changeover, I’m not sure how “Lean” the whole process is.   Luckily, with football season around, I have found a new example to talk about.  (For those who may want to stop now, I’m talking about “American Football”, not what most everybody else in the world calls football.)

Judging by ratings, more people watch the NFL and College Football than motorsports.  That’s kind of important if I want to come up with something other than the tried and true pit crew metaphor.  Chances are if you’ve watched a game over the past few years, the talking heads in the booth have spent some of their time talking about “hurry up” or “blur” or some other variance of a no-huddle offense that is the greatest thing since the forward pass.  This is likely to be a huge topic of conversation early in the NFL season as one of the most well known practitioners, Chip Kelly, has left the University of Oregon and is now performing some degree of his voodoo for the Eagles.  What does that have to do with Lean and changeovers?  Hopefully I can show you.

One of the perceived benefits of the no huddle offense is that you can run more plays in the same amount of time because you can run them faster.  How does that happen?  Well, it starts with looking at a huddle as a changeover.  If you can exchange in your head the whistle stopping the previous play for “last good piece” and being in place for the snap of the ball for “first good piece”, the process is actually quite logical.  Here is a typical huddle:


In a no huddle system, you identify the steps in the changeover that don’t add value.  In this example, the steps that don’t add value are the “running back to the huddle” and the “communication in the huddle” steps.  From there, the steps of going to line up in your position and coaches communicating the play have to occur in parallel, and add in speeding up the movement from the end of the last play to getting back to the line for the next play.  The diagram starts to look like this:


3Okay, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s not a bad start.  Plus, it makes both watching football and talking about SMED a little more interesting.  (For the sake of clarity, yes, I realize that no-huddle offenses aren’t a new development in the past 2 years.  Also, from a football standpoint the speed of the plays is mostly important because it allows you to constantly tweak the pace of plays being executed so you can outflank the defense…but that’s a topic for another time and place.)

Are there any other good parallels that are in use to talk about SMED or another Lean concept?  In the interest of space, I’ve condensed some of the “how” out of this post.  If you’re interested, post a comment or drop me a line (joewilsonlean at gmail dot com) and we can discuss this concept or your other examples further.

Posted on September 20, 2013, in Tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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