Welcome to suburbia

I've finally plucked up the courage to set-up an online blog. I'm going to endeavour to blog as often as possible to share my thoughts, to share some articles and news i find interesting, and also use it for my private reflections (you guys won't get to see that!). Also i hope people will read and comment on some of my posts.

The spur for deciding to set-up a blog has been my studies through the Open University. They encourage learning and reflection, and collaborating with others.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Nick Saban: Lean football coach?

Articles like this one delight and frustrate me in equal measure.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban – Lean Thinker?

Let’s start with the negative. Having the same lunch every day to save time in choosing, likewise having an automatic door, as examples of how far Saban will go to eliminate waste. Does a great deal of harm to what Lean Six Sigma process improvement is about. Yes Nick is removing variation, and that is alright for some.... but I doubt (even tenuously) that Nick's lunch order is a root cause of his team's consecutive national championships.

Secondly is this concept of standardisation. The author seems to be suggesting that standardisation is one of the key factors in winning. I agree with the author on the standardisation of the small stuff, however I think rather than talking about continuous improvement he would be wise to focus on the flexibility this affords the team in terms of its playing philosophy (explained in the next paragraph)

What I love about this article is the focus on process. Alabama have a process for preparing teams to win games, not a process for winning games like many other sports teams. The sports world is obsessed with developing a winning formula, the "one best way" if you will, that can conquer all teams in all scenarios. What Saban and Alabama do well is respond well to differing challenges. They've learnt how to adapt to meet the strengths and weaknesses of opponents and they have enough intellectual flexibility to know that sticking to one catch all philosophy is unlikely to work. This work he does with his team means they can flex their approach during games as well, something many struggle with.

The other thing I love about this article is at a detail level. Saban prioritises that which adds value. Coaching and interacting with his players is his number one priority. His team doesn't get better by him responding to emails faster, they don't get better by him spending time with the national and local press, they don't get better by him spending more time watching tape.... they get better because he prioritises time spent with his team; coaching, mentoring, adjusting, reinforcing.

What it also does is add to the volume of evidence that suggests Lean can be applied outside of manufacturing.

What do you think sports fans?

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