Student Body Right

Football season is back in a 2020 sort of way with real players and crowd sound effects, so here is Lean Peeve #2, a post to celebrate.  Student Body Right is a play popularized in college football in in the 1960’s in which the ball carrier ran toward the right end of his offensive line as every other player also pulled right in front of him to block.  To the untrained eye it just looked like the entire team just ran to the right, hence its name. But, to the trained eye, this was a carefully choreographed play where every player had a specific, timed assignment. Click this link to see it in action – kind of like standardized work, the best use of resources to do the job.  Football is a brutal sport, but it’s the science that makes the play effective, not the brute force.  

On the other hand, in business, something charading as Student Body Right appears to the untrained eye to be productive, while in fact it is not.  Take, for example, that end of month push in manufacturing when an army of employees are marshaled to a production area to meet a month-end bogie.  While the sheer numbers may appear effective, “throwing bodies” at the task is marginally more productive at best and is more likely to end in employee injuries or part defects.  Or consider a stock trading company where all investments must be posted same day.  By day’s end, the entire company is crowded into one department to finish the posting.  Guess when most mistakes happen? Dealing with unevenness (Mura) creates craziness and stress (Muri) more like this play: For a laugh, click this link.  No science, just brute force.  Do you know the name of this play? 

So, how do you run your offense?  With science or brute force? 


P.S. As I look forward to our annual Northeast Lean Conference, coming virtually to a compute near you on October 7-8, I am especially excited to hear our day one closing keynote Professor John Carrier discuss 7 Key Control Concepts To Drive Your Digital Transformation. In the race to implement new manufacturing technologies and systems, such as the Industrial Internet of Things, it is often forgotten that factories and operations already have systems in place—and the inner workings of these systems tend to actively resist any change forced upon them. John will share ideas to help manufacturing executives and frontline leaders implement technological change at their companies while developing a company culture that puts people first. Read more and register your team today here.

6 thoughts on “Student Body Right

  1. Trent

    Hi O.L.D
    I find this comparison between science and brute force to be quite funny actually. Most viewers may reference certain NFL teams as ground-game oriented or smash mouth football. What they are referring to is the team’s tendency to run the ball over and over. What they may not realize is that each run, whether a sweep, iso, or sneak, is always based on a science. I think far too many people chalk up team’s ability to run as pure toughness and strength when in reality it’s the ability to stay disciplined and execute as a team. If one block is missed, or someone doesn’t pull from the right position, a gap is forfeited and the other team has an opportunity to tackle for a loss. Similar to your canoe example, a football team operates at their best when everyone is performing as a whole rather than individual units. A very interesting way of portraying this, and I’m sure all the Seahawks fans may now understand why the decision to throw was made.

    1. toastguy

      Thanks for your thoughts, Trent. I played football in high school and college, and I can attest that very few plays worked simply because of brute force and even fewer because of luck!

  2. Michael O'Flaherty

    I really enjoyed how this comparison was simple and to the point as it exhibited the distinct differences between a well organized play and an end of the game scramble. After watching the hectic game winning play it was obvious that there was no organization and the team members scrambled to keep the ball moving up the field using backwards passing. I also enjoyed how this play likened to that of an end of the month rush for production as it simply produces more defects and can potentially harm employees. I would 100% agree that an organized Study Body Right approach would be more effective in the worlds of sports and business in order to succeed.

  3. Stefan Diarbi

    While reading your blog, I very much enjoyed your comparison due to my own experience in high school football. Personally, I was able to decipher the metaphor, because much like football, a firm must work together to march down the field, from all sides. If a company were to focus production in a short amount of time, we are not only increasing defects, but also overproducing, another deadly waste. There needs to be coordination so there are no defects, and as a result there will be evenness in the firm. Much like the comment above about the Seahawks, it was going to be successful, but some unlucky error occurred. There was no Mura, everything was split down the middle, and the Patriots did truly get lucky. Great blog post!

  4. Abigail Person

    Hi O.L.D,

    I really enjoyed your comparison of a football team and a company here. I agree that it’s not exactly productive to just throw a player at the opposing team, in the same way that it’s counterproductive to just throw an employee into a situation, or to throw resources at an employee with no explanation on how to use them. This was a very interesting blog post


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