Policy Deployment #4 – Catch Ball

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How does your company roll out its annual business plans?  Do you get a huge spreadsheet with every cost possible, including toilet paper usage, broken down by accountants after weeks of calculations?  Is there a 95 page Powerpoint presentation that rivals any insomnia methods that exist today?  I really despise those techniques, mostly because of all the waste our leadership and accountants put into a plan that was usually irrelevant by the time the starting month began.  But that was only after I was enlightened by  the lean 7 wastes.  However, even before that I was generally uninspired by this method.

If you lead a group of people and share the same view of uninspiring business plans, I encourage you to try playing “catchball” with your group. Catchball, as described by Pascal Dennis here, is the best method I’ve have found to truly engage your team and achieve astonishing business results.  It’s a crucial part of Policy Deployment that Bruce has been blogging about.  (here, here, and here.)

The name catchball comes from the concept of taking ideas and playing catch with your team, unearthing solutions to a problem.  Within policy deployment, this problem is the large business goal and the outcome is a series of activities intended to achieve that goal.

The key is that the team members at the lowest levels are the ones developing the solutions.  This creates intensely motivated teams with unbelievable buy in to the business plan.  It increases morale because people are working on what they determined to be the important items.  It all rolls up into outstanding business results and a high level of personal satisfaction for the team.

The best way I’ve achieved catchball success is to start with an A3 with the background information that describes the business problem, like increase sales by 15%, and the gap analysis portion completed.  Then turn it over to the team involved to analyze  problem cause(s).  Let them work on it for a couple days then get back together to scrub the information.  I’ve used 5 why’s, stand in the circle, data mining, and other methods here to capture the causes of the problem.  Once a consensus is achieved on the cause, then send the team back to develop the corrective actions.  Give them a couple days and meet again to review.  Once again achieve consensus.  Complete the A3 with the chosen actions.

A crucial point here is to make sure that both the leadership and the team agree upon the path chosen and both take equal accountability for the outcome.  Now go to work!  This may entail creating additional A3’s and additional catchballs as you progress towards the goal.  Remember to get together and monitor progress on the A3 at frequent intervals once they are in place.

A little warning is required here.  It all sounds great but it requires a huge amount of work and patience achieving consensus and playing catchball, but it is worth it.  You must fight the urge to just delegate the tasks to your team when you get impatient and the pressures are mounting.  You must “give up control” and fight the Amercian mentality of “I’m the boss and I’m the smartest person!”  You’ll also encounter team members that don’t want the accountability of developing solutions!  Don’t be discouraged by these things as you play ball.

If your business plans are uninspiring and you are looking for a better way, go through the LEI webinar with Pascal and give catchball a try.  You’ll be truly amazed at the results for the business and the personal satisfaction of your people!

If you decide to give catchball a try be sure to let me know how it works out!  zleanone@gmail.com


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3 Responses

  1. The shared accountability between levels is great. It creates management by delegation not management by abdication – which is what dictating a goal then coming back to ‘hold people accountable’ really is. The participation in the planning process by people who will be executing is important to creating ownership of the plan (as opposed to actual or false ‘buy-in’). Ownership at lower levels increases the probabliity that that people will not only make great efforts to fulfill the plan but make necessary adjustments to the plan.
    One question, spurred by you comment about spreadsheets, is – what level of financial control is appropriate? The plan has to have some basis in financials, at minimum someone in the organization has to plan cash because that is need to pay for things (salaries and wages included). I understand the level of ‘control by spreadsheet’ that the author is talking about becasue we worked together in the past and that level was cartoonishly absurd. But haow much management by spreadsheet is appropriate?

  2. […] Policy Deployment #4 – Catch Ball by Bryan Zeigler […]

  3. Good explanation of catch ball

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