[starbox]At my height basketball was never going to be a major part of my life. During the Al McGuire years at Marquette it was hard not to become a fan, though, and I have followed the sport closely since then. In March almost everyone is a college basketball fan. One of the things I miss about not being in a shop full time is the fun of filling out a bracket and trash talking with my coworkers for most of the month. A few took it very seriously, others not so much, and the pool winners were usually people who relied on team colors or mascot names. Some might take a dim view of this “distraction” interfering with production. I believe that it is a much better “team building” activity than dragging the office staff out for a wilderness retreat. Let’s face it, we spend a lot of the work day watching machines run and waiting for phone calls or e-mails. The “office pool” gives us something to talk about and has a way of introducing people to co-workers outside their immediate department. Personal relationships are the most important factor in reaching high manufacturing performance. People want to be part of a winning team and they want to impress their teammates when the “game” is on the line. That isn’t a sports cliché, it is real life. No one reads a book or watches a movie hoping the hero fails. We watch sports the same way, like pulling for “our team” to beat a higher-seeded team in front of the big crowd. In the gear business it isn’t a matter of your height or your ball handling skills that gets you the win. It can be the way your team works together to make certain hand-offs are efficiently made and priorities are clearly communicated. Everyday tasks can have a way of becoming game-winning shots. Make sure your top performers know how proud you are of them.