Have You Hugged Your Goalie
Reflections on Hockey Teams and
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
1. Hockey requires a tremendous
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
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
3. 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
Quality teams must be committed to
working together and meeting frequently. This builds
unity and effectiveness that cannot be acquired if
4. Don't compromise on
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
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
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
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
7. Hug the post and watch your back
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
8. Keep your body square to the
puck, cut down the angles, glove up and watch the
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
9. Watch the
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.
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