Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back to Basics

By Al Norval

The dog days of summer have passed, fall is here, the air is crisp and winter is just around the corner. It’s one of my favorite times of year which means it’s football season. As I write this, training camps have broken and the regular season is well under way. It’s mid-season so every team is still in the race.

What do football and Lean have in common? Many things, the most important being how they pay attention to the basics. The basics of football are blocking and tackling. The basics of Lean are making problems visible and problem solving.

Football training camps that began several weeks ago, opened with the basics of blocking & tackling. Why do they start with the basics? In football, the teams have to block and tackle on every play. If they can’t get those right, there is no way they can get the more advanced plays right. The basics of blocking and tackling are a foundation for everything else. They need to be good at the foundational basics so they can build upon them. If not, it’s like building a house of cards and we all know teams like that.

The basics of Lean are found in the foundation of the House of Lean. Like football, Lean needs a solid foundation of Standard & Stable processes to build upon. Lean uses 5S and Visual Management to make waste and problems visible and a simple problem solving process to engage team members in solving problems. The outcome of problem solving often is standards and/ or standardized work by which the improvements are locked in. By solving problems and strengthening the underlying processes, we build a solid foundation upon which to move into JIT and Jidoka.

So, standards and standardized work lock in improvements. Sounds like football again where each play is standardized work and where more advanced options build upon the foundational standard plays.

For more on basics and Lean, see the Lean Manifesto at

1 comment:

  1. Back to basics? Yes absolutely but also don't forget the importance of practice, practice, practice. I think we lose sight of that in business. Very rarely do we see "practice" for the big game. It's critical for building a community of learners. When we practice, we see our mistakes, can reflect and improve.