Oct. 23, 2015 – The NFL season is just underway, and I for one am glad Brady’s suspension was overturned. I won’t take sides on the debate — was the punishment too harsh, or the processes too flawed, or was he even guilty of an offense to begin with — but, as a sports fan, and as one of the growing throng of “poolies,” I’m glad he’s in the equation.
Being a sports fan, October is always one of my favourite times of the year. The NFL season is only a month old, the NHL and NBA seasons are still clean white slates filled with possibilities and potential for every team (even the Leafs), and baseball games have suddenly become meaningful, even to the casual fan.
Sports is competition, and because of the explosion of sports pools, our experience simply as spectators is greatly enhanced; we benefit personally from the experience that competition brings. As I’m going through my picks this morning, I am predicting who I expect to see in the Superbowl (New England and Seattle), who will make it close (Green Bay and Denver), and who the dark horses are (I’ll keep that a secret). Detroit, Dallas, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are emotional favourites for me; I often win or lose a week’s pool when emotion overrules reason.
The season’s start is an exciting time — it’s a clean white sheet for everyone: players, teams and poolies alike. In some ways, our manufacturing businesses follow a similar pattern. We have our off-season — a time when things slow down. It’s hard to get our heads in the game, and we are often not operating with a complete team. We look forward, with anticipation and some anxiety, to the beginning of the next business season. New models, new equipment, new planning and new processes, often done in the off-season, are rolled out and launched. All the planning, changes and new things get put to the test when the new season begins.
A quarter of the way through the new season, we will know who stumbled out of the gate and who is a pleasant surprise. The teams themselves will have to make adjustments, re-evaluate strategies, personnel and predictions, and so will the poolies. From previous years, I know the choices are staying the course for a while longer, making a few minor strategy adjustments, or making major wholesale changes. Again, not unlike business.
Sports pools are fun. Many people I know who are not even fans enough to watch any of the games still participate and get caught up in the pools. Why is that, I wonder? I think it’s human nature. We like to compete, to be put to the test, and to test ourselves. It’s always been that way, but with our statistics and information-saturated world (thanks to the Internet and social media), many more of us are drawn in. I’m not sure if I’d suggest that our very nature has been altered by IT and social media, but I’d certainly suggest some parts of it have been heightened and enhanced. We don’t just want to know things instantly, we want to be able to act on them and test the effects of those decisions and actions immediately.
All of this brings me back to a recurring conversation — why haven’t we changed the culture and conditions of our manufacturing workplaces to reflect this new reality? Don’t the same people that now participate in sports pools also work in our factories? I never personally liked the term “gamification” or the objective of “gamifying the workplace,” but people obviously find meaning in sports and they are no longer content to be simply spectators, they have become active participants. Isn’t there a significant competitive advantage to our companies if we could do the same thing in the workplace?
The process of change begins by understanding why sports pools are so engaging. Timely information is abundantly available to everyone and each individual is able to act on that information and measure the effect of that action. That’s the day-to-day and week-to-week learning. What we can learn about sports seasons is that every now and then, we have to slow down, plan for the coming new season, and give everyone a clean white slate to start from.
All my picks are in and it’s a couple hours before kickoff. A new season has started. Go Patriots!
Paul Hogendoorn (firstname.lastname@example.org) is co-founder of FreePoint Technologies, “Measure. Analyze. Share.” (Don’t forget to share!)
This column previously appeared in the October 2015 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.