Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Meeting Play Clock

As a college football Back Judge, I spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking about the play clock in the Fall. (The game clock keeps track of how much time is left in the game, the PLAY CLOCK keeps track of the amount of time between plays). Did it start when we want it to start? Should it be set at 40 seconds or 25? Did the offense snap the football before the play clock wound down to zero? 

The play clock (and it's operator of course) play a vital function in the game. It provides a drum beat like tempo. College football teams spend lots of time in practice getting off the ground, re-grouping in a meeting called a huddle, deciding on the next course of action, moving to the line of scrimmage (where the ball is located), getting everyone (11 "employees") positioned where they are supposed to be, and then executing the agreed to play. In a typical game, the offensive team will repeat this routine (kata) between 75 and 95 times. Time n the huddle (the time spent on the next course of action) is typically 15 seconds.

Without the play clock, managers (the coaches) would have all the time in the world to debate, argue or contemplate what they want to do next. 2, 3, 5 minutes if they want.

Let's turn this thinking to our company meetings. Often there is no play clock at all. Back in the day (before LEAN) I can remember meetings in my own company that lasted hours. I remember meetings that would start and some invitees would show up late and we'd have to get the late arrival up to speed. One topic would morph into another, the chairs in the conference room were very comfortable, as was the temperature and humidity.

Then the LEAN started. Daily huddles, Dozens of A3 meetings and closings each week, and GEMBA walks (aka walking meetings). Suddenly we had to install some kind of play clock for all of these little get togethers. All meetings should be done standing up at the GEMBA (where the work is), and NO meeting would last more than 25 minutes.

LEAN is really time management. We are determined that we will spend our time doing value added work (the customer will gladly pay for it) vs. non-value added (chock full of the 8 wastes). No customer on the planet would consider people sitting in meetings something they would pay for. We need to bring a new discipline to our business. Our meetings need to be more like huddles. Standing up. Come prepared. Get what we need to know communicated and then go execute. With a game clock. 


  1. Another version of hitting the nail on the head. Thanks Bill

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  3. Personally my opinion is that we need to make our sports more modern. Add more electric items, like auto checking of goals or monitors where you can see the repeat of most questionable moments. I don't know why a lot of sports are so against this. I read in the a lot of The UniTutor reviews that it's really hard to make some improvements because sport organizations are highly against it.

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