ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

February 1999

Doctoring The Health Care Industry

A Toast To The Future

Business, The Final Frontier

Formula For Success: Balance Technology And People

Y2K Calling

by Peter Block

Have You Hugged Your Goalie Today?
by Bryan McGraw

Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

The Quality Tool I Never Use

Sites Unseen

Book Review


Have You Hugged Your Goalie Today?
Reflections on Hockey Teams and Quality Teams

by Bryan McGraw

As an advocate of total quality management (TQM), hockey fan, player and “Hockey Dad,” I have discovered similarities between hockey teams and quality teams. Here are 10 rules goalies and hockey teams live by that are applicable to quality teams:

1. Hockey requires a tremendous investment.
Hockey requires lots of practice (often at odd times of the day or night), and significant investments in equipment, fees and personal time.

Before an organization adopts TQM, they should consider all aspects and costs and benefits. They should examine other organizations to gain insight into the pros, cons and return on quality. This enables development of a good implementation plan.

2. Training is mandatory.
It's foolish to think anyone could play hockey without training. The results would be embarrassing and downright painful. Hockey players spend years developing skills and they never stop learning.

Quality teams must complete training in essential skills and quality tools and techniques. Training must occur continuously to stay abreast of the latest strategies.

3. Practice, practice, practice.
Hockey players spend countless hours practicing. To succeed you must practice together and work on individual skills and techniques off-ice to gain proficiency.

Quality teams must be committed to working together and meeting frequently. This builds unity and effectiveness that cannot be acquired if meeting infrequently.

4. Don't compromise on safety.
Hockey is dangerous—especially if you're not wearing the proper equipment. Players should wear the necessary equipment for protection and to improve performance. Cutting corners can be disastrous.

As teams complete training, they accumulate a “tool kit” of knowledge. This includes hard and soft skills to accurately collect, analyze and measure data. Failure to incorporate these “safety” considerations can result in skewed data and erroneous decisions.

5. Expect bumps and bruises.
All players will tell you hockey is full of bumps and bruises. When you're learning, you fall a lot. If you give in to the short-term discomfort, you will fail. However, if you work through the pain you will become a better player. The choice is yours: player or spectator.
Quality teams should expect a bumpy road. Be ready for resistance and conflict and find ways to overcome these obstacles to ensure success.

6. “Skate hard-The team that gets the puck first wins!"
My daughter's team motto spells it all out. As players you have to work very hard—harder than the other team to win.

Quality teams must diligently work to meet goals. If you don't work hard it shows and the team fails.

7. Hug the post and watch your back door.
A goalie must carefully watch opposing players who wander behind the net to make sure they don't give up a cheap goal or a “wrap-around.”

Teams should examine all aspects of a process to eliminate surprises. Sometimes the most complex problems arise from simple issues or unintended consequences.

8. Keep your body square to the puck, cut down the angles, glove up and watch the “5-hole.”
If this sounds confusing, well it is. Keeping your body square to the puck and moving out of the crease a little presents a smaller goal for opposing shooters, while keeping your glove up makes it easier to snare high shots. The “5-hole” is a small amount of space at the five o'clock position between your stick and leg pads which is a veritable sieve for some goalies. Great goalies have tremendous vision, anticipation and reflexes that allow them to make spectacular saves.
Quality teams must try to anticipate outcomes and be prepared for the unexpected. They should examine processes to arrive at sound, justifiable decisions regarding an initiative. Similarly, they should carefully and proactively measure process components to improve quality.

9. Watch the puck.
Skillful hockey players score goals. Techniques include a variety of fake moves and shots, changing directions quickly and reversing the puck from forehand to backhand. Sometimes these tricks will cause a goalie to commit early and give up a goal. The strategy for overcoming these threats is to closely follow the puck and blade of the player's stick—-not the player.

Teams should carefully examine processes and watch markets and competitors. They shouldn't become satisfied with the status quo. Instead they should actively listen to suppliers, employees and customers to improve the likelihood of success. Ask “what if?” questions and engage in innovative planning. Failure to adopt this strategy usually means losing the game.

10. Communicate!
Communication is essential for any hockey team. Teammates must openly communicate opportunities, threats and information to win.
Open, honest and clear communication is essential to any team. Without it, teams cannot perform successfully and the outcomes can be quite bad. However, if you openly share information the results can be outstanding. One thing is for sure, no communication equals failure.

February '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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