How Much of Football is VA?


My wife would say “zero!” I mentioned the Sunday NFL playoff games and got a note from a Lean Blog reader, Chris, saying:

I use this in my orientation to new employees: How much time is value added in a standard three hour football game? 12 minutes.

My wife complains that football (and baseball) games are nothing but a bunch of standing around. True, there is a lot of “wasted” time in a football game. DirecTV's “Sunday Ticket” has an option where you can watch a game edited down to 30 minutes, nothing but plays (every play in the game) and some replays of key plays. I guess Chris was saying that the players are actually in motion (after a snap and before the whistle) for 12 minutes of the 60 minutes of clock time. I didn't know that stat. Interesting.

That said, I have to question the definition of “Value Added” here. Remember, “value” is defined by the customer. If the value of a football game is the full experience, seeing the game in person or on TV, being with friends, etc. then more than the 12 minutes can be defined as “value added.” Look at the Super Bowl and the silly hype over the ads. If the ads are entertainment and you're enjoying that time, then that might be “value added.”

Value Added depends on the particular customer (or customer segment). If you're such a football fan that you love the strategy and the playcalling (or the cheerleaders), then much more than 12 minutes is “value added.”

Interesting example, Chris, and thanks for pointing it out. I just think there are other Lean lessons that we can glean from that example.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. You get 3 hours of clock time, but the clock only runs for 60 minutes, and only a small portion of that is in motion.

    But value add is 1) customer values it and is willing to pay for it, 2) it changes the product or service and 3) it is done right the first time.

    So you also have to subtract any time out for penalty plays.

    It’s a low percentage of value based on time, for sure. But that value is worth an awful lot based on how much people are willing to pay.

  2. One could argue that American Football is a great example of PDCA in action. Teams plan for a week on how to outplay the upcoming opponent. When the referee’s whistle blows, the plan is put in place. Each play the team is evaluating progress and adjusting based on progress and environmental feedback, i.e. weather conditions, the opposing teams progress, etc. Might be a stretch, but makes sense to me.


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