A Little Kaizen in Baseball – The Washington Nationals’ Bullpen


I saw this article over the holiday weekend: “Nats install bullpen seating for relievers.”

The Washington Nationals relief pitchers asked to have a set of raised bleacher seats installed so they could view the game from above the fence instead of through the fence – see the article link for a picture or see this tweet:

Why did this remind me of the practice of Kaizen as a continuous improvement methodology and philosophy?

First, the pitchers identified an annoyance or problem that interfered with their enjoyment of the game (as employees of the team). While many Kaizen-style improvements focus on the customer (or the patient in healthcare), it's also true that many Kaizen improvements are focused on creating a less frustrating and more enjoyable workplace. Happy, engaged employees tend to lead to happier customers, which leads to a more successful organization.

Second, building a set of bleachers isn't really that complicated or that expensive. We often talk about putting “creativity over capital,” but it sometimes makes sense to spend a little money.

What can you do, in your workplace, to listen to the concerns of your employees and their ideas? Are you willing to implement suggestions even if they impact employee engagement and morale instead of directly benefitting the customer?


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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