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Rhythm, Motion, Basketball and…Lean?

Posted by Clint Corley

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Mar 3, 2017 11:52:39 AM

sport-1874698_640.jpgAll my life, I’ve been an avid basketball fan. In my younger days, some would say I was a decent player, though many moons have passed since then. Every time we stepped on the court, one of my team’s goals was to get into a “rhythm.”

The dictionary definition of rhythm is “a regular, repeated pattern of beats, sounds, activity, or movements.” For any non-sports aficionado reading this, imagine a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal. Each person in this group is moving fluidly through their individual responsibilities, and the entire group’s activities are synced together in unison; much like a choir singing beautiful four-part harmony.

On the basketball court, our goal was to create that same harmony, except using movement instead of sound. If we could accomplish that, we could predict what events were about to transpire and act accordingly.

When a basketball team creates a rhythm they commit fewer turnovers, increase the percentage of shots made, make more efficient use of their time on the court, and execute as close to flawless as human nature will allow. Now, you can’t ever be perfect, but being in a rhythm allows you to improve the small factors of the game, and those factors add up to victories.

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How does this apply to Lean? Great question. To answer it, let’s examine the eight wastes of lean as defined by the Toyota Production System (TPS):

  1. Transportation
  2. Inventory
  3. Waiting
  4. Overproduction
  5. Overprocessing
  6. Defects
  7. Motion
  8. Human Potential

We’ve written a lot about the eight wastes of Lean on this blog (you can learn more here and here). Of course, you can cut to the chase and download this free guide to the wastes of Lean, too.

Identifying ways to reduce each one of these wastes has proven to yield better results. For example, reducing defects in products results in fewer returns, and reducing transportation lowers cost and speeds up delivery of products to their end user.

For the purpose of discussing rhythm, we’re focusing on #7 - motion.

The most efficient way to get into a rhythm is to eliminate the waste of motion. Tying back into our basketball analogy, check out this video of the Golden State Warrior’s Stephen Curry taking 3-pointers in practice.

Notice how Stephen has eliminated almost
all unnecessary motion during this practice session. He stayed in the same spot on the court, was passed basketballs from the same angle, caught the ball in the same position and performed the same shooting motion repeatedly. He eliminated the motion of dribbling, running, lateral movement, shot-fakes, basketball moves and extra passes. The result: he drained 77 shots in a row. Mr. Curry was in a rhythm.

Curry repeats this process daily; it’s his job. Couldn’t we use the same strategy of eliminating the waste of motion to create a rhythm in our own jobs? Could creating a rhythm reduce errors, increase quality and make us more efficient?


Here’s a work example: I’m typically the first one in the office in the morning. I used to walk in, set up my desk, make coffee and then start my day. My motion was: desk → break room to start coffee → back to my desk → break room to get coffee → back to my desk.

What I realized was if I walked in, made coffee and then set up my desk, I’d actually make one less trip to the break room. My new motion is now: break room to make coffee → desk → break room to get coffee → desk. I’m accomplishing the same tasks but have eliminated wasted motion by simply reordering my work to create a rhythm for myself in the morning.

I have a challenge for readers today: take a few moments and think about how you can eliminate wasted motion at work and at home. Try to find your rhythm and improve your professional life, your personal life and earn yourself more time with the ones you love.


The 7 Wastes of Lean [Free eBook]


Topics: Lean

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