Guest Post: What #Lean Can Learn from Sports

Posted on May 7, 2013 | in 2012 Summer Olympics, Basketball, Golf, Sports | by
I am again off to the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Indianapolis, so today we have a guest blog post from my friend, fellow Lean practitioner, and fellow blogger Christina Kach.
Christina Kach
As a reader of this blog you already know LeanBlitz aims to improve sports and entertainment endeavors by the application of Lean techniques. This unique perspective allows Lean to break through the typical associations to manufacturing and hospital settings. As a Boston girl, a die hard fan of every local team, and an athlete myself, I know my sports. And through the years of watching my teams endure exciting wins and painful losses, I’ve learned a few lessons that can help Lean practitioners improve their “on field” performance at work.

– 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.

Christina Kach is a Continuous Improvement Lead for a Government Defense Company based in Massachusetts, focusing on Lean implementation and process improvement in a manufacturing environment. Christina held her first Lean position as in intern in 2006. Since then she has continued to seek out varied roles of increasing responsibility and actively pursues further Lean education. Christina holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Northeastern University and is SME Lean Bronze Certified. 
Christina invites you to connect with her via Twitter (@ChristinaKach) or at her blog for young professionals
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2 Responses to “Guest Post: What #Lean Can Learn from Sports”

  1. Pingback: Waving Goodbye to #2013Lean Blitz – Do it better.

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