Applying Lean To… Baseball?

Most people who know lean know the frame work around how to apply it to manufacturing. One thing I haven’t seen is an agreed upon framework to apply lean to non manufacturing settings. Thats what I want to talk about in today’s blog. What is the “standard” approach to applying lean to non manufacturing.

Toyota had defined lean in 3 elements 1)Muda (wastes) 2)Mura (flow) 3)Muri (overburdening). So the question because do these elements apply across the board? Let’s apply lean to a baseball pitcher.

Starting from the top who is/are the customer(s) for the Pitcher? Here is a first pass:
1) Catcher
2) Teammates
3) Fans
4) Team Manager
5) Owner

Wow that’s a lot of customers! Luckily they all have something in common, they all value winning and some value entertainment. Naturally we would do everything to maximizing winning (aka value) and I’m going to apply the lean principles of Muda, Mura, and Muri to maximize the ability for a pitcher to win.

Mura (flow):
Warm up
Pitch count
Rest and recuperation

If a pitcher doesn’t “flow” from one aspect to the other the pitcher can be in danger of fatiguing or injury if they don’t go from one aspect to another in a smooth rotation. If they get “stuck” in one zone then there is a danger of loosing thier edge, fatiguing, and/or injury.

Muri (Overburdening):
Standard warm-up time
Standard range for pitch count
Standard rest days
Standard rest process (i.e. icing, massaging, etc.)

This is basically making sure the pitcher follows a standard process to ensure peak performance to maximize potential for winning a game.

Muda (waste):
Too few pitches
Too much rest
Uncontrolled pitches
Fans are bored (fans value entertainment)

This is where it gets interesting. For Muri (overburdening) and Mura (flow) the concept is well maintained from manufacturing to pitching. Muda doesn’t seem to apply. Do all of the 7 wastes (Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overprocessing, Overproduction, Defects) apply to this example? Some do but there are unique elements that do not apply to anything but sports. One example would be “viewablity.” Fans want entertainment and winning. If you are really boring to watch or not winning then you have a real problem. Some wastes aren’t wastes at all in this case. Waiting to throw a pitch isn’t a waste with the pitcher. They are resting to make sure they have a good next pitch. They are playing mind games with the hitter. They are building suspense for the audience. The waiting actually adds value because it helps with winning and can help with entertainment.

Here is what seems to apply across the board. Mura (flow) and Muri (overburdening) translates well across the board in any business. Muda (waste) needs to be customized for the particular business. The 7 wastes are actually a great starting point but each business sector needs to find their won TIM WOOD. So when taking lean to another sector outside of manufacturing find your muda. All Comments welcome!

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