PDCA at the Plate
Forgive me, non-baseball fans. But, it is the season.
Readers of mine know that I like baseball and find many parallels between it and lean thinking. In other words, I see a lot of good lean thinking in baseball. [See "Managing to Pitch with PDCA (Pitch-Defend-Catch-Adjust)" and "You Gotta Have Wa"]
So now I live in Cambridge, essentially part of Boston, home of the Lean Enterprise Institute. And home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, who just hosted their rivals, the New York Yankees for a three-game series. Amidst all the media coverage was a great quote from new Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who has some interesting lean views about batting.
We know that "lean" is all about plan-do-check-act (PDCA). The challenge we all face in our everyday work is to answer the question, How do I do PDCA here, now.
I like to remind folks at every opportunity that PDCA begins with ... "P." So, you can't do PDCA without the P (and the D and the C and the A - the P alone will, of course, get you nowhere). Now, check out this observation from Adrian (forgive me Yankees fans), who has a clear plan for every at-bat:
"... even if it's the dumbest game plan in the world, at least it's a game plan, and I’m going to go to the plate and try it. I'm willing to lose with that game plan. It's a game of failure, and I understand that."
Interesting. His approach is reminiscent of Edison's great observation: "I haven't failed - I've found 10,000 things that don't work."
If baseball (and surely football or soccer is no different) can be seen as a game of failure, could that insight shed useful light on our attitude toward business? If we are focused on learning through each PDCA cycle - win, lose, or draw - then the only real failure is failure to learn. Think of your own sports analogy, but maybe business isn't so different from baseball.
Chairman and CEO
Lean Enterprise Institute
P.S. By the way, Adrian's failure rate at batting (at getting a hit) this year is about 65%. So, he fails most of the time. And that's easily the lowest failure rate (and possibly also the highest learning rate) in Major League Baseball. (Read more about his approach in this Boston Globe article by Charles P. Pierce.)
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