Monday, April 9, 2012

My LEAN heros: Ty Cobb and Taiichi Ohno

Our beloved Boston Red Sox have begun their quest for yet another World Series Championship come October, and I have begun to think about what type of hitters I would want in my lineup to win the World Series of LEAN (if it existed).  After extensive research, I would like to make an argument for a team made up of players like Ty Cobb.  During his 24-year big league career, Cobb captured a record 11 batting titles, batted over .400 three times and won the 1909 Triple Crown. Upon his retirement he held career records for games played (3,035), at bats (11,434), runs (2,246), hits (4,189), total bases (5,854), batting average (.366). and stolen bases (892). He also played during what was called "the dead ball era", a time when pitchers dominated and hits were hard to come by.

As you are probably aware, Taiichi Ohno,, the person who is widely regarded as the father of the Toyota Production System, never set out to create a discipline called TPS or LEAN. Instead, to ensure the survival of his company, Ohno and his teammates actively and aggressively did (for the most part) small experiments at GEMBA-every shift, every day for decades. It is safe to assume that not all experiments resulted in hits. And we also know that most of the "hits" were singles and doubles, not home runs.  Ty Cobb personified this spirit of experimentation.   In The Glory Of Their Times, Larry Ritter quoted Sam Crawford, who didn't like Cobb, as saying "He didn't outhit the opposition and he didn't outrun them. He outthought them!"  Yet Cobb, after playing 3,035 games, was not a free swinging home run hitter.

In my baseball LEAN learning organization, my goal would be to fill my lineup with Ty Cobbs (and of course Taiichi Ohnos). Personally, I view orchestrated, multi-day "kaizan events" as home run derby, a fun spectacle to watch once a year. I want as many players as possible stepping up to the plate day in and day out moving their teammates along. 

And maybe stealing home once in a while for REAL excitement!  
Go Sox.

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