Applying Soccer Discipline to Your Company’s Lean Daily Management

Applying Soccer Discipline to Your Company’s Lean Daily Management

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By Tony Rodriguez and Mike Beauregard, Daniel Penn Associates

In a world of rapidly changing customer demands, your organization’s lean daily management activities and the game of soccer have much in common. That’s according to those with experience in both arenas.

According to Peter Loge, author, Soccer Thinking for Management Success: Lessons for Organizations from the World’s Game, concepts for soccer apply to companies…and vice versa.

“In football, players do and coaches think. Players are interchangeable gears in a complex machine run by others. [In contrast], soccer is systems thinking in action. In soccer, those who decide, also do. Forwards can defend and defenders also attack, and goalkeepers occasionally score..”

Defining Lean Daily Management

Whether the goal is to boost productivity on a product line, reduce service delays, efficiently fill custom orders or keep the ball in your team’s possession during a match, how we manage daily activities across our organizations is critical.

Lean daily management is the system and structure that companies develop to manage daily work. A daily management system must take into account customer demand, best practices and standards, equipment and the workplace, improvement, and people.

In short, lean daily management helps your team do what is important better.

Why do lean daily management?

Similar to play on the soccer field, lean daily management gives ownership to team members who are closest to the work and ongoing events. On the field (or on the floor) team players can take a 360-degree view of the situation.

By empowering work teams to respond quickly to changing conditions, we create an environment where continuous learning is accepted. Everyone knows they play an important role in the company’s progress.

It’s important that the work teams who contribute to their company’s lean daily management system first need to know what “good” looks like. They must set and measure efforts against key performance indicators that matter. KPIs such as safety, quality, delivery time, productivity and cost must be quantifiable. They must reflect critical success factors. They need to link to organizational goals. They must be agreed to beforehand. And they must be measured over time.

Who should do lean daily management? Everyone in your organization.

According to Peter Loge, “Successful organizations, like successful soccer teams, are systems in which everyone has a specific role and in which everyone sometimes fills the roles of others.”

Just as in a soccer match, in lean daily management there is no waiting. Actions, information flow, measurements, and improvements occur in the moment.

A shift in thinking about work teams

As on the soccer field, overall goals and objectives come from management. But it’s the team that manages daily work. The team facilitator may be the team leader or the supervisor. But he or she can also be chosen by the team. The facilitator is often a worker and a coordinator. They become the information link and spokesperson. The same applies to lean daily management activities in a company.

Many companies look at work teams organized in tiers.

In a small company, the tiers may look like this:

  • Tier 1: Work team and team leader
  • Tier 2: Team leaders and value stream manager
  • Tier 3: Value stream managers, support managers, and site manager

In a large company, the tiers may look like this:

  • Tier 1: Work team and team leader
  • Tier 2: Team leaders and supervisor
  • Tier 3: Supervisors, support staff, and value stream manager
  • Tier 4: Value stream managers, support managers, and site manager

Elements of a daily management system

Kaizen – literally ‘change for the better’, is a cornerstone of lean. Its philosophy and methodology help organizations achieve sustainable growth through continuous improvement.

Daily management systems incorporate
Visual management and displays  = The tools that help show equipment status, show when help is needed, or show the need for materials or supplies.

Examples of visual displays

Daily meetings (Stand-up Huddles) = The pre-game (or shift). What is off track? How do we correct it?  What can we do ourselves and what do we need to escalate?

Team huddled learning about standardized work

Standardized work = Doing the right things correctly and consistently to keep the team efficient and on the same play. Documenting what is to be done, how and why.

Table of Leader Standardized Work

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) = Measuring (and improving on) the moves and actions that matter.

Problem-solving = Managers and team members ask for, receive, evaluate and provide feedback from other team members. How are we doing against our standards (KPI’s)? What’s needed (skills, equipment, time, etc.) to get back on track?

Flow chart of problem-solving

5S = Organize and standardize the work environment. Keep only what the team needs in the work area and know where it is.

Tools that are organizedCoaching = Building qualities in managers and team members that help them identify challenges, propose and implement solutions. On the soccer field and in companies, coaches assess readiness, give guidance and define the next steps. In the process, they learn and grow as a coach.

Gemba Walks = Whether it’s the production floor or the field, going to the source provides focus and clarity on expectations, balances safety, quality, delivery, cost, and morale; aligns goals; creates a problem-solving culture.

Leadership = Walking the talk. Positioning people to play to their strengths. Balancing the team’s talents and skills.

What happens in daily tier meetings?

That depends upon the tier. Here’s a small company example:
Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3
PPE - Incidents since yesterdayIssues since the previous periodTrends - Key issues in the last period
Plan for next periodNone unless issue kicked up from Tier 2
Delivery to schedule
Line issues since yesterday
Q, P, C
Schedule going forward
Line issues,
Plan vs. Actual
Trends in Q, P, C, D
Concerns for TodayImprovementsImprovements
Actions needed on today’s issues
Follow-up on prior actions assigned
Actions needed on today’s issues
Follow-up on prior actions assigned

At the end of the day, what matters?

Common KPIs for both companies and soccer teams include safety, quality, delivery, productivity, and costs. These are always covered in at least one of the tier meetings.

Company examples

  • # Units per hour
  • Cycle times
  • Lost time due to accidents
  • Rework time
  • Accounts receivable
  • OEE
  • Scrap

Soccer team examples

  • # of goals per period/match
  • Player turnover
  • Lost time due to injuries
  • # of fouls
  • Stadium draw or team sponsorships
  • Player out for the season


Antonio (Tony) Rodriguez, CMC, is president of Daniel Penn Associates. Mike Beauregard is an international consultant with Daniel Penn Associates.

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