Stacking the Box, Throwing Downfield, and PDCA


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?

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