Chicks dig the long ball. At least, that’s what the Nike ad from the late 90s told us. If you don’t recall this particular ad, you can watch it here. Simply put, the ad shows that everyone likes home runs better than base hits or strikeouts. And home runs are way cooler than bunting.
I mean, let's be real here: hitting the ball 450 feet *does* look way better than nudging the ball down the baseline. That doesn’t mean it is any less important.
How might this relate to continuous improvement? Think of Strategy Deployment or Hoshin Kanri as the home runs, Top Down projects as base hits, and Employee-Led initiatives as bunting.
Strategy Deployment is awesome. Executives love to see where initiatives are rolling up to and their financial impacts on the company. Seeing those big financial impact numbers can be a huge win, just like knocking a ball over the fence.
Top Down projects are like a string of base hits to score a run: getting a group of people to work together in conjunction to solve a problem. Easy in theory, a bit harder in practice.
Lastly, Employee-Led Initiatives can be viewed as similar to bunting. Anyone can lay down a great bunt, just like anyone can come up with a great idea - and that idea can really be a difference maker, just like a great bunt.
Just like a baseball season, a continuous improvement is a long and arduous journey. Will you win some games with home runs? Definitely! Can you string together base hits and win a few more? Sure! Can you win games with bunts? Just ask Jon Lester.
The truth is, you can have success in the short term with any of those things. But if your team isn’t good at all of them, you aren’t setting up your organization for long-term success. Strategy Deployment provides a vision for success. Top Down projects let people collaborate around big ticket problems. Employee-Led Improvement provides the opportunity for anyone to get involved and make an impact.
Strategy Deployment, just like hitting a home run is fun, looks good and is important, but its not the end all-be all to improvement. Make sure you don’t neglect Top Down projects and Employee-Led Improvement in the process!