No Joke: Lean Methods Applied by a Hockey Coach in Ontario


Unlike Thursday's joke, this is real. It's a video posted by the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), featuring a full-time Lean professional, a “kaizen facilitator,” who is in the third year of coaching a youth (teenagers) hockey team in Ontario.

In the video, he talks about applying some Lean tools, but also and more importantly, a Lean mindset to their practice, their preparation, and their game performance.

Here is the video:


The coach, Wayne Verge, talks about why he introduced Lean ideas to hockey,

“Lean is a way of life right now, so I applied it to hockey.”

I know how he feels – it can be difficult to turn off the “lean thinking” in your brain once you really adopt this methodology.

Verge introduced some tools, like 5S for the locker room, but I like his discussion of proper planning (a form of standardized work, it would seem) and they way they apply the PDCA to their analysis of their game performance. They review each game tape, looking for the top three problems (a very Toyota-like mindset) and then they look for the root cause of any bad performance, such as lack of discipline and lack of flow (player movement). They then to drills and practice to work on those problems before the next game.

In three seasons, the team has literally gone from “worst to first” – a transition you see in many Lean workplaces, as well.

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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. Very inspirational! It will be interesting to follow the teenagers on the team and see how this experience influences them in the work world. They’re certainly getting a healthy introduction to lean concepts and practices at an early age.


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