The NBA playoffs are in full swing and fans are enjoying quite a show. Before each game, the commentators usually help fans know what to watch for by outlining the “Keys to the Game.” (Or more accurately, the “[Insert sponsor name here] Keys to the Game.”) They are usually something along the lines of, “Protect the paint, defend the three, and get Lebron in foul trouble.” In the commentator’s view, these are the things that the team must do to win the game. Of course, a continuous improvement program is not the same as a basketball game, but there are definitely keys to success. Here are a few of the things that improving teams do to succeed.
Winning a championship in sports requires 100% commitment from every member of the team. Everyone from the GM to the third string point guard must do their part to secure victory. Likewise, improvement requires commitment from the top of the organization to the bottom. Even your all star players have to share the drive to get better every day.
The best basketball teams make the game look easy. They seem to read each other’s minds as the ball moves from player to player before making its way through the hoop. But the game isn’t as easy as they make it look. What we see is the result of thousands of hours of individual and team practice. Improvement programs require practice as well. Start small by tackling relatively simple opportunities for improvement to get the feel of how improvement work should go before you take on more complex challenges.
Have a Game Plan
Before an NBA team takes the court, they have a shared idea of how the game should go. Adjustments are necessary, of course, but the team comes armed with a plan. Your team should be similarly armed with a structured plan for identifying opportunities for improvement, implementing and measuring them.
Watch the Tape
Basketball players and coaches spend hundreds of hours watching recordings of their past games and those of their opponents. This helps them understand what has worked well and what hasn't in similar situations. Documenting your team’s improvement activities creates a “tape” of sorts and enables you to look back on past improvement initiatives to repeat what works and change what doesn’t.
Share the Ball
Rarely does a team’s success sit in the hands of just one individual. The best teams work together to leverage the strengths of every player. Cross functional collaboration is essential to the success of improvement efforts, especially when applied to a complex process or difficult problems.
Feed off the Crowd
A basketball team’s fans are often referred to as the “sixth man” because of the energy and intensity that they share with the players on the floor. Your entire organization can serve as the sixth man for your improvement efforts if improvement activity and achievements are broadcast for everyone to see. Employees who receive recognition for their efforts will become more energized about improvement.
So there you have it; your KaiNexus Keys to the Game. At the end of the NBA playoffs there will be one champion and many defeated teams. Fortunately, when you practice continuous improvement, everyone comes out on top.