Blog Archives

Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2013 – Lean Blitz

At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management.  The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers.  This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.

Lean_Blitz_logo

A blog that I discovered a couple of years ago was Lean Blitz written by Chad Walters.  I like Chad’s unique way of relating lean and continuous improvement to the sports world, because there are plenty of examples throughout sports to do this.

Take the respect for people as an example.  The NFL was ripe with instances of disrespect this year, from the Miami Dolphins’ handling of the bullying in their locker room to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ unclean locker room leading to three players getting MSRA infections.  Not only in the NFL but in college also.  This post talks about Coach Kelly at Notre Dame not listening to his players when something was wrong with the gauntlet machine.  Chad tackles the issue head on in his posts.

Another topic on the blog is error proofing.  Chad talks about how Clemson and Notre Dame handled a color out night at their school for a football game.  Clemson was a huge success while Notre Dame not so much.  He shows some of the differences.  Another favorite is how sprinklers popped up in the middle of an NFL game at the end of last year.

Chad has created a unique blog at Lean Blitz.  It is a fun and different way to demonstrate lean principles in action in any environment.

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Best of Beyond Lean in 2013

Today I am highlighting the five most popular posts written in 2013.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Visual Management at Home (February 2013) – A great example of a visual board used at home of a friend of mine.

4. Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball (April 2013) – A great video explaining the process of catch ball during the strategy development process.

3.  My Continuous Improvemnt: Personal Kanban 3rd Revision (January 2013) – The latest update to my evolving personal kanban for work.

2.  Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri (March 2013) – Chad Walters does a great job explaining strategy deployment using the movie Moneyball

1.  When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment (May 2013) – Talks about the importance of setting standards and using them to understand your processes.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!

Guest Post: NBA and Jon Spoelstra

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

Chad_WaltersToday’s post is from Chad Walters.  Chad is a Lean consultant and owner of Lean Blitz Consulting in Augusta, Georgia, a firm focused on continuous improvement for small businesses and sports organizations. He has run projects for the Atlanta Braves, the Salvation Army, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Eaton Corporation, The Dannon Company, and the South Bend Silver Hawks among other companies. He has been practicing Lean and continuous improvement for over eight years, is a Six Sigma Black Belt certified by the American Society for Quality, and received his MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where he was a member of the Kelley MBA Sports & Entertainment Academy.  You can follow Chad on Twitter @LeanBlitz.

One of the great features of genuine hoshin thinking is focusing on the future and big picture goals while moving away from some of the negative focus on resource constraints. With hoshin kanri, we set a destination, and based on our current location determine the proper path to follow to achieve our destination. Worrying about what we’re not allowed to do is what keeps us from reaching for what is genuinely possible to achieve.

While I have been labeled a “devotee of lean management” in a recent article by a baseball writer (and I most definitely am) I absolutely love creative marketing. One of my favorite and most influential books I’ve read is Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra. He is the former President of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers among other influential positions, but he is a marketing savant when it comes to driving revenue growth through creative marketing.

The following is a passage from Marketing Outrageously that has stuck with me ever since I first read the pages. Spoelstra shows that a top-down hoshin-like “What’s it gonna take to do this?” approach can have an energizing effect on a team.

~~~~~

In the late 1980s I was general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. Even though I didn’t have the authority to draft or trade players I could call meetings with those who did. I assembled the coaches and plaer personnel managers and asked the question, “What’s it gonna take to win the championship this year?”

Logically, it was a foolish question. This was the era when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were leading the Los Angeles Lakers to regular championships. When the Lakers didn’t win, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics did. Lining up to cut in on the Lakers and Celtics were Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. So how stupid was my question, “What’s it going to take to win the NBA championship this year?

On paper we didn’t have a chance; in our minds, less than no chance. We were, however, a pretty good team. We had won fifty-three games the year before. Considering all this, I wanted us to think beyond what we had.

The player personnel people took the question as an insult. I could hear them thinking, “Who does this marketing guy think he is?” They fumed and grumbled for a while.

I asked the question again. “What’s it going to take to win a championship this year?”

Silence. Finally, John Wetzel, an assistant coach, said, “One thing we need to do is really improve our outside shooting. We need some guy that can come off the bench and really fill it up.”

Two shooters,” said Rick Adelman, another assistant. “When we get to the playoffs, we can’t run our fast break as much, and the middle gets clogged up. We need two reliable shooters coming off the bench.”

We talked for two hours. Head coach Mike Shuler was enthusiastic, salivating over the thought of somehow acquiring two bona fide outside shooters. We made a list of players who might be available. We came away from the meeting with assignments for each of us to start making inquiries with other teams.

Later, Rick Adelman told me, “I’ve been in a lot of player personnel meetings over the years, and this was the best. We actually talked about winning a championship and what that would take.”

Did I think we had a chance to win the championship this year? Not really. But I knew we had no chance to improve unless we set the target higher than what was comfortable.

~~~~~

Sports teams that are a mish-mash of talented players that aren’t cohesive or working together generally don’t win championships. Companies don’t consistently “luck into success” – it takes an overarching end goal and a strategic plan to get there.

So why did this meeting change the mindset of the franchise? The leader set a high goal to achieve – win a championship – and instead of saying “now go do it” to his subordinates he asked what does the team need in order to achieve it? He didn’t talk about constraints or resources, he just wanted to know what was needed in order to create a championship team.

Now that the team’s genuine needs for winning a championship were identified, the load fell on everyone’s shoulders to procure those resources, whether it was outside shooters or additional money or anything else. However, the organization was aligned to this one goal and clearly it drove motivation because all were now pulling in the same direction. If they needed to eliminate resource constraints by finding more money, they would hire more ticket sellers.

By using a hoshin kanri approach the focus for the Portland Trail Blazers changed from “here’s why we can’t” to “What is it going to take?”

Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

Chad_WaltersToday’s post is from Chad Walters.  Chad is a Lean consultant and owner of Lean Blitz Consulting in Augusta, Georgia, a firm focused on continuous improvement for small businesses and sports organizations. He has run projects for the Atlanta Braves, the Salvation Army, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Eaton Corporation, The Dannon Company, and the South Bend Silver Hawks among other companies. He has been practicing Lean and continuous improvement for over eight years, is a Six Sigma Black Belt certified by the American Society for Quality, and received his MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where he was a member of the Kelley MBA Sports & Entertainment Academy.  You can follow Chad on Twitter @LeanBlitz.

The book Moneyball by Michael Lewis not only lays out the top-to-bottom game strategy employed by the front office of the Oakland Athletics under team general manager Billy Beane in 2001/2002, but it also serves as a demonstration of how major philosophical and operational changes require a leader willing to stay the course during trying times and full alignment of resources to accomplishing the overarching goal.

For those who are unfamiliar, Moneyball was a paradigm-shifting revelation to the way baseball front offices evaluated and valued players – greater focus on specific statistics (on-base percentage) and valuing the concept of “not making outs,” among other things. Not only did it change the way front offices operated, but it also brought the essentially-foreign concept of efficiency to a boys’ game. The Oakland Athletics, in an effort to compete with the big spenders while on a shoestring budget themselves, employed statistical analysis with baseball players to take advantages of inefficiencies in the game. In 2011 Moneyball was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and Jonah Hill as assistant general manager Peter Brand (the name chosen by the writers when the real assistant general manager at the time Paul DePodesta wouldn’t permit his name to be used in the movie). The movie was great, but really only if you read the book first.

Lean practitioners who were also sports fans loved the entire concept of the story – it wasn’t just about doing things differently, but doing things smarter and better and bringing a cerebral approach to the game they loved. It was about change management in the face of adversity, only it happened to be in the industry of baseball.

The Athletics didn’t coin the term “Moneyball” but their overarching goal of maximizing the ratio of team victories to payroll through the use of statistics measuring team efficiency is a great example of hoshin kanri – the entire organization was aligned to the unique operational strategy to achieve this end goal of maximizing team on-field production.

In an industry where “the way it’s always been done” runs rampant moreso than any other due to the very public nature of the business, achieving organizational alignment was tough and the team’s leaders took steps to forcefully (rightly or wrongly) assure its implementation.

How did the Oakland Athletics demonstrate hoshin kanri?

  • Change management started at the top. “How baseball players are evaluated” was the change that occurred with the Athletics. They (like all other major league teams) had almost solely leaned upon scouts to evaluate players based simply on watching the players firsthand, because “that’s the way they had always been doing it.” Billy Beanewanted to change the approach to include statistical analysis, and because he oversaw the team’s scouting departmentand on-field operations it was his call. Contrast that with Peter Brand, who before being hired by Billy was a low-level advisor to then-Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. Peter had no pull in the office, despite possessing superior education and mathematical analysis skills, so he would not have been able to influence such a monumental philosophical change.
  • “Adapt or die.” While this is quite the fatalistic view on change management, it was the philosophy Billy and the Athletics had to adopt. They had a payroll that was less than 1/3 that of the New York Yankees, so the Athletics had to go “bargain hunting” for undervalued players who featured the undervalued talents like high on-base percentages. In order for them to have a chance to compete with teams like the Yankees they had to be smarter with their dollars.
  • “Trust the process.” Billy and Peter believed in this new philosophy, and their faith was certainly tested when the team started the season poorly. They were aware that the successes would take time to arrive, and multiple tweaks to
    the process (and the process users) would occur. For example…
  • The organization’s activities had to be aligned with the overarching goals. The Athletics scouting department (including lead scout Grady Fuson) were fundamentally opposed to the idea of focusing on statistics instead of what they saw from players with their own eyes. The tension between the two philosophies became so heated that (according to the movie) Billy and Grady had an altercation that led to Grady getting fired. (Adapt or die, indeed.) While scary, it is important for all process users to buy into the change.
  • “So what’s our problem?” One of the favorite Lean tools is the “Five Whys.” When we encounter a problem, we should follow up our analysis of the cause by asking “why” five times. Billy did the same thing, continually asking “So what’s our problem?” to get down to the root of the issues.
    “We aren’t winning.”
    “So what’s our problem?”
    “We aren’t scoring enough runs.”
    “So what’s our problem?”
    “We aren’t getting enough guys on base.”
    “So what’s our problem?”
    “We are making too many outs?”
  • The ultimate poka-yoke. Billy and Peter had specifically signed former catcher Scott Hatteberg to play first base (because of his high rate of reaching base as a hitter), yet manager Art Howe refused to play him, instead opting for young first baseman Carlos Pena. Art Howe had not bought into the new philosophy. How could Billy make absolutely sure that Art would start Hatteberg going forward? Just get rid of all other first basemen on the roster! Billy traded Pena to the Detroit Tigers, Hatteberg became the new first baseman, and…
    Belief in the process and persevering can bring great rewards. …the Athletics set a record by winning 20 straight games on their way to winning the American League West division.
  • “The first guy through the wall gets bloody.” Billy was indeed the first guy to break down the wall, but the paradigm shift in all of baseball was on. In fact, the on-field success of the Athletics despite the miniscule payroll was so revolutionary that Billy Beane was offered the role of general manager of the Boston Red Sox (one of those teams with a huge payroll but inability to win the World Series). He turned the job down to stay with the Athletics, but the Red Sox won the World Series two years later with general manager Theo Epstein at the helm, using the same philosophies introduced by Billy and the Athletics.

Moneyball is the ultimate triumphant change management story, and we all aspire to such a heroic chain of events. It required a philosophy, leaders who not only believed in it but stuck with it through difficult times, process users and followers who were in alignment, and a lot of courage to try something new – unlike most traditional companies, the success of the Oakland Athletics is in plain sight for everyone in the world to see.

Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2012 – Lean Blitz

At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management.  The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers.  This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.

Lean_Blitz_logo

A blog that I discovered this year was Lean Blitz written by Chad Walters.  Chad is a student of the Toyota Principles and he does a great job of explaining each principle in a separate blog post.  Each post has an example of the principle that can be seen in everyday life.  If you are not familiar with the Toyota Principles I would suggest checking out Chad’s posts on the all 14 Toyota Principles.

Chad uses his business background to write about lean in business like the overproduction Domino’s Pizza has in their stores with all the pre-built pizza boxes.  He also points out how Domino’s can use standardized work toe fold the boxes in the most efficient way like the worker in the TV advertisement.

Chad also shows how the Toyota Principles can help small businesses in a practical way.

A unique perspective that Chad brings is his experience in working with professional sports teams and organizations.  He does a great job of relating the Toyota Principles to happenings in the sporting world.  The Miami Marlins inability to think long-term in order to achieve their goals is a fantastic post about Toyota Principle #1.

Being a very large St. Louis Cardinals fan, I really enjoyed the post about the filth at Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs).  Chad uses data sited from studies and then relates it to having a good 5S program in place and using visual management.  The morale increases everyone is happier.  Is this the reason the Cubs can’t win?

Chad talks about other lean concepts such as long lead times and how sporting organizations are losing revenue due to long lead times.  Texas A&M got off to a great start in football this past season and their quarterback, Johnny Manziel played well enough to be in the discussion as a Heisman finalist as the best college football player.  The university had long lead times on the jerseys for Manziel and ended up leaving a lot of cash on the table and fans unhappy when they couldn’t get one.

Chad has created a unique blog at Lean Blitz.  It is a fun and different way to demonstrate lean principles in action in any environment.