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.

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
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.


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