Applying Business Metaphors to Sports

We suffer through lots of sports clichés in business articles and motivational speeches. What if the reverse were done to sports teams? I am a big fan of Deming’s “14 Points for Management” of a quality organization. How does your favorite team measure up? There are 14 points, so this may take a few blogs (Ed.’s Note: ‘W. Edwards Deming offered 14 key principles for management to follow for significantly improving the effectiveness of a business or organization. Many of the principles are philosophical. Others are more programmatic. All are transformative in nature.’ — MIT-CAES Press. The points were first presented in his 1982 book, Out of the Crisis.)

Point 1: Constancy of purpose. How often has your team changed coaches or quarterbacks? My fellow Packer fans love to compare numbers of quarterbacks and coaches over the past 25 years. We suffered through some bad years too, and no one wants to stick with a losing coach for very long. But is changing every two or three years really helping?

Point 2: Adopt the new philosophy. Lots of teams have plenty of experience with adopting new philosophies; they do it every time they change coaches. Others are invested in a particular “style” and change coaches without changing style. Yinz Steeler fans understand how that works.

Point 3: Cease dependence on mass inspection. It is hard at first to see how this applies to sports, but the over-dependence on analytics is becoming a recognized problem. The idea that “you can’t win without a 6’5″ quarterback, linebacker, or tight end” seems logical until you get beat by an opponent with an under-size player with a “high motor.” As one frustrated coach pointed out, the objective is to win the game.

Point 4: End the practice of awarding business on price tag alone. Where do you start on this one in an era of salary caps? Teams with big payrolls don’t always win and teams with small payrolls don’t always lose. It is often easy to tell if a player is coming up to a “contract year,” but how many have their best seasons AFTER they get the big bonus? “Show me the money” seems to be a better motivator than “give me the money.”

Point 5: Constantly and forever improve the system. Some sports organizations really embrace this one — even if it requires testing the limits of the rule book. Yeah — I am talking about your Patriots. The games of football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey love to tout their long history, but in truth the contests change over the years in response to players being bigger and stronger and to “minor adjustments” in the rules or enforcement of the rules. Imagine a National Basketball Association (NBA) game where traveling was rigidly called; or hockey without fighting. Good coaches complain about officials; great ones are two steps ahead of them.

More of Deming’s 14 Points next time…

About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.