Standard Work for Baseball Umpires??

Ump Reflects on Controversial ALCS Call:

If you don’t know now what happened at the end of the Angels/White Sox game two, the game story is here.

What’s amazing to me is that baseball umpires are given so much personal leeway in how they call a game. It reminds me of hearing people in a factory say “well, it’s easier for me to do it this way” instead of adhering to standard work practices. Much of the confusion on this play came from how the umpire gestured, somewhat weakly, leading to confusion over whether he only called “strike 3” or also called the batter out.

“Eddings said he planned to change his style to more clearly reflect the difference between calling a strike and calling a batter out.

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Mike Port, baseball’s vice president of umpiring, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Eddings did nothing wrong and that umpires are not required to audibly call ‘No catch.'”

I can’t believe a major umpire is allowed to have “a style.” “His” style was unclear to everyone watching, which is a major weakness in his performance as an umpire.

The NFL does a great job, for the most part, of turning its referees into “robots” who do things the same way (except for the occasional enthuasiastic “first down!” call). Major League Baseball has been working for a long time on trying to standardize the strike zone, with mixed results.

It seems like MLB and the umpires could spend all winter hammering out their “standard work” to prevent problems like this in the future. A key lean manufacturing tenet is that all communication and visual controls should be “clear and unambiguous”. That wasn’t the case here, is that the case in your factory? At least you don’t have millions watching on TV!

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By the way, check out the “Management by Baseball” blog, interesting reading.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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