Curious Cat Management Blog Carnival Annual Review – Part II

Posted on January 22, 2014 | in Baseball, Basketball, Football, Kaizen, Leadership, Problem Solving, Process Mapping, Quality, Respect For People, Root Cause Analysis, Safety, Sports, Value Stream Mapping | by

curious cat

As stated yesterday, John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Blog hosts an annual review of blogs, penned by other management blog authors. I will cover four blogs total, having started with two blogs yesterday and finishing with two today in this post. These two blogs reviewed below are from continuous improvement consultants and book authors whose works I hold in the greatest of respect.


leanblog logo mark grabanMark Graban’s Lean Blog is far and away the most comprehensive yet eclectic mix of posts about continuous improvement applications found in any blog, and simply saying this doesn’t do the blog justice.

Mark has been churning out Lean and continuous improvement content since 2005, and while his blog’s primary focus has been on healthcare topics (even writing three books about Lean in healthcare) his roots are in manufacturing in the auto industry and he shares posts that go beyond Lean in healthcare – iPhone manufacturing (and lack of respect for people at Foxconn), traditional manufacturing, current events, and so on.

He covers so much information in his near-daily posts and frequent podcasts that he sets the standard for demonstrating that Lean and continuous improvement works everywhere.

He’s also a big sports fan and has penned many blog posts about how Lean can impact sports on and off the field. In fact, when I first started thinking about connecting Lean and sports about six years ago it was a handful of his posts that made me think “Yeah, someone else thinks this is a good idea too!”

I read his blog daily (and try to provide additional commentary where I can), and so I highly recommend subscribing to anyone from continuous improvement novice up to well-seasoned practitioners.

His large quantity of posts in 2013 makes it hard to just pinpoint a handful of standouts, but fortunately he has a solid selection of posts about sports which I’ll share with you now!

– The 2012 NFL football season saw a great replay flag snafu with then-Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz throwing a challenge flag on a scoring play – however, because scoring plays are automatically reviewed, not only did an odd rule reverse the automatic review (canceling it) but it also drew a penalty. A very stupid rule, so stupid that the Houston Texans implemented a measure to error-proof against their then-head coach Gary Kubiak throwing his flag on a scoring play.

crooked batters box

– Take a good look at the batter’s box lines. They seem awfully crooked, don’t they? Mark shared a post about how laying out the lines of the batter’s box should be error-proofed but somehow the process of chalking the lines broke down before this game. Not only are there devices that keep this from happening, but shouldn’t somebody have noticed – the umpires, grounds crew, players, anybody?

– Mark also shares a post about doing Kaizen now, not when you’re “ready” and uses a great metaphor in Michael Jordan – he began practicing basketball as soon as he knew he wanted to be good at it, not waiting until he was much taller and “ready” to be good at it. So many organizations use “waiting until we are ready” as an excuse to put off potential change. If you want to get better now, start now.

– Alabama football coach Nick Saban makes lots of reference to “the process” as part of his on-field success. Mark looked a little more deeply into whether Coach Saban is truly a Lean thinker because of his adherence to “the process”.

– Mark and I also exchanged guest posts in 2013. Mark shared a post about Bryce Harper crashing into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium with regard to the “warning” of warning tracks, and another post about Rob Gronkowski’s multiple surgeries due to infection and what teams/hospitals can do to prevent reinjury and extra medical intervention. I shared (in early 2014) a guest post about two NFL players violating concussion protocol without penalty and another post (in 2013) about a lesson taught to me by a mentor.

– I was invited to be a part of his Lean Blog Podcast to talk about Lean in sports as a preview of The Masters.

– Also, Mark has published an electronic compilation of his Lean Blog posts about sports, aptly named “Lean Blog: Sports”.

Mark also has a couple other Lean-related side projects – Lean Memes and Be More Careful!

I look forward to further collaboration with Mark in the future. We are often having Twitter discussions about silly things happening in sports that really reinforce how Lean and continuous improvement are sorely needed. Mark can be found on Twitter at @MarkGraban.


karen martin the outstanding organization ksmartinKaren Martin is the principal author of her blog at The Karen Martin Group. Karen is a continuous improvement consultant, Shingo Research Award-winning author, and keynote speaker. She has written four books – The Outstanding Organization won the Shingo Research Award in 2013 and Value Stream Mapping was just released this month (my copy has been ordered and is on its way!), along with Metrics-Based Process Mapping and The Kaizen Event Planner.

She shared about two blog posts per month, and while some of those posts were in support of the content in her books they also helped reinforce the valuable applications her books have on breaking down roadblocks and facilitating significant improvement.

– In the DMAIC project management/improvement framework derived from Six Sigma, the D stands for Define. This is the project phase where we answer “what is the problem we’re trying to solve?” so that we have greater clarity for planning improvement and we are less likely to implement changes that don’t have the right impact on results. Karen penned a post about how using fuzzy words doesn’t help promote clarity and objectivity, and how the lack of specificity increase the chances for improvement failure.

(Quick aside – Karen and I met at the 2013 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Indianapolis and she and I talked about fuzzy words. I shared with her a bit from George Carlin on how we let morphed terminology take the edge off of descriptions when that edge is what generates a sense of urgency.)

– As indicated with Mark’s post about being “ready” for Kaizen as opposed to just doing it now, Karen shares another excuse for delaying improvement – “corporate won’t allow it.” Stop making excuses. If you know something can and should be improved and you have the capability to get it done so you can do your work better…just do it. Generally, the results will trump any excuse or bellyaching from “corporate”.

– One blog post of hers that I have a slight dispute with is about how we would explain whether Lean really works. While we both agree that properly-applied Lean thinking works, she also says she would answer the question “How can you prove that Lean works?” with follow-up questions like “Can you prove the existence of God?” to suggest that we have to take a leap of faith that the results will come if we do it right.

I, on the other hand, would respond in a different manner. While I do indicate that taking the first step with Lean requires a lot of trust, I would refrain from using unprovable-before-the-fact analogies and instead opt for a Total Quality Management approach with a focus on defining customer expectations for safety, quality, and delivery and show how the Lean tools and Lean thinking tie directly to business success if done properly.

Lean doesn’t have to take such a large leap of faith to learn and know it can work if properly explained. (Maybe this works for her when she talks with new clients so I am hardly in a position to judge!)

– Karen has been a guest on Mark’s Lean Blog Podcast before as well – as a prelude to the release of Value Stream Mapping, and to discuss The Outstanding Organization.

Karen can also be found on Twitter at @KarenMartinOpEx.

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