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Breaking Down a Baseball Swing (or a Workplace Improvement)

Posted by Matt Banna

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Aug 22, 2017 7:01:00 AM

baseball-2141867_640.jpgBeing the resident KaiNexus baseball fanatic (See previous posts here and here and follow me on Twitter to get all my KaiNexus and Chicago Cubs related tweets), I was thrilled when Mark Graban shared Tim Cooper’s Kaizen Batter with me after meeting Cooper at a conference. 

Kaizen and baseball? What a great combo!

I love baseball for many reasons: you can’t run out the clock, you always have to be paying attention, and one swing of the bat can change the game.

Think about that swing of the bat: it has been said that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest tasks in sports.

If you have played, you know how difficult it can be. The feeling of success is fleeting when even the best players get hits on average 3/10 times. If you have never played, former Pittsburgh Pirate star Willie Stargell explains, “They give you a round bat and they throw you a round ball and they tell you to hit it square."

All joking aside, hitting a baseball is incredibly difficult because a fastball typically takes 0.4 seconds to reach home plate after it leaves the pitcher’s hand. Increasing the difficulty, it takes 0.25 seconds for a human being to see the ball and react. How do you prepare and succeed in a situation like that?

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Tim Cooper’s Kaizen Batter takes a seemingly impossible task and applies a Kaizen approach to make it easier. By using a Value Stream Map, Cooper takes that 0.4 seconds and breaks it down into 5 steps: Sync, See & Set, Stride, Turn, and Execute. At the end, he then says to record yourself on video to help spot where the player can improve. By breaking down a complex, difficult task into smaller steps, it becomes easier to focus, improve, and succeed.

Taking a step back, a baseball swing can be complex - that’s why Cooper broke it down. Although the steps Cooper outlines in his Value Stream Map are specific to hitting a baseball, the process in which he defines these steps are not.

Think about a challenging situation in your work environment: the issue doesn’t get solved all at once, the issue gets broken down into more manageable pieces.

Take a look around and you’ll see many variations of these steps. At KaiNexus, we break the improvement process into the steps of Capture, Implement, Measure, and Share. Other common improvement processes include PDSA, PDCA, and DMAIC (although those are cycles, not just a linear progression). Organizations might have their own custom variations, too! Breaking down complicated problems into smaller steps is important in order to make the problem seem more manageable and easier to fix.

Hold on, you didn’t think we were going to finish without talking about technology, did you?? Just as KaiNexus adheres to the iron triangle of People, Process, and Technology, so does Tim Cooper. Tim Cooper talks about the players (People), the Kaizen Batter methodology (Process) and lastly - video recordings to help spot where the player can improve and actually see what step needs coaching (Technology).

Improvement cultures can use continuous improvement software to spot gaps in their improvement processes, just like players can use video to spot gaps in their swing. Continuous improvement software gives insight into who is participating, what are they doing and what kind of impact that they’re having.

Learn more about improvement software in this free eBook -

Continuous Improvement Software eBook


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