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About Dan Markovitz

Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

TIMEBACK BLOG Syndicate content

Stacking the Box, Throwing Downfield, and PDCA

Posted January 18, 2010 @ 6:00 AM

I'm a long time (and long suffering) NY Jets fan. I've watched decades of ineptitude, incompetence, and bad luck. I've suffered through bad drafts (Blair Thomas? Lam Jones?) and lousy coaching (Rich Kotite?). I've suffered through the Mud Bowl and Marino's Fake Spike. So when I watched yesterday's playoff game against the San Diego Chargers, I didn't have much hope. 

The Jets needed to run the football to win. Their rookie quarterback has a tendency to throw the ball to the wrong team, so the Jets' plan was to run and run and run some more, and only throw when absolutely necessary. Only problem was that the Chargers knew this. So they "stacked the box," bringing all their defenders up to the line of scrimmage. The Jets couldn't run: in the first quarter they had more penalty yards than rushing yards.

But then the Jets adjusted. They started throwing the ball downfield, forcing the Chargers to respect the throw and play defense over the whole field. This prevented the Chargers from stacking the box. And that enabled the Jets to finally run effectively. End result: Jets win.

You couldn't find a clearer example of PDCA this weekend. It came from the stadium floor not the factory floor, but it was still a tremendous example of making a plan (run, don't throw), doing the plan (running on 10 of first 13 plays), checking the results of the plan (0 points, 11 net yards), and then acting upon those results and adapting (throw downfield and more often).

In football playoffs, there's really no choice except to adapt if your plan isn't working -- if you don't win, you're out. But when I think back to problems I faced in jobs earlier in my career, it was very different. If we had problems during the development cycle of one of our running shoes, well, that wasn't great, but there were plenty of other shoes that were coming along just fine, and anyway, we were busy getting ready for the next season's product development cycle. With hindsight, it's obvious that we lacked the sense of urgency that a football team has in the playoffs. 

How many problems do you see at work that you let slide? How often do you think to yourself, "Well, it's not that important," or "I don't have time to figure out what's causing the problem," or "Yeah, this stinks, but that's just the way it is."

What would it take to get you and your company to treat everyday like the playoffs (lose and you're out)? What would it take to get you and your company to apply PDCA to all the problems you're facing and make the adjustments necessary to win?

(Go Jets!)


Sports are often an example

Sports are often an example of effective PDCA cycle. Not only football (which in Europe doesn't exist, but I watched the game yesterday on satellite...) but also in other sports.
But in the football it becomes more obvious because the game stops after every play and you must THINK of the previous points and hopefully adjust for the next ones.
In basketball for example there is lot more action and players need to think without stopping the game, without the outside influence from the bench.
In our factories though the situation is much more similar to football then basketball because every product, every takt time can be utilised for problem solving and PDCA. And in between one product and the next one should be the coach (team leader) who observes the situation and compares it to standard work and eventually adjusts to meet the schedule.
The problem is: the team leader is not always present within takt time when needed, when the cord is pulled. That is the main distinction between a lean and a non lean...
Team leader can be viewed as the offensive coordinator, while the group leader as the coach, who intervenes when the problem is too difficult to solve for the team leader within takt time.

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