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Jim Huntzinger

Jim Huntzinger: Be Like Coach – What underlies the Team

By Jim Huntzinger, - Last updated: Friday, May 13, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I believe Pascal really hits the point well.  I also love his Coach Wooden reference so I will reference Coach as well.  The underlying principle and practice is the focus on developing the individual as a precursor to developing the team.  You cannot have a strong team without strong (well –developed) individuals – or, at least, cannot sustain any reasonable level of teamwork without well-developed members.  This was the objective of the TWI Program – developing the skills of individuals so that they can better contribute to the larger organization.  This is also why it laid the ground work for kaizen and standard work – it is, by design, a very one-on-one practice.

In business (and specifically in the lean enterprise) we value teamwork.  Except that efficient and effective teamwork can never be achieved or accomplished by building up the group first.  An excellent illustration of how to build the individual, first, which becomes foundational to building – a group, team, or business –, is found in the teachings, beliefs, and practices of legendary coach, John Wooden.[1]

In their book, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned (noticed the title of their book is nearly the same mantra that the TWI Program used, which according to Swen Nator, co-author and a former player of Wooden’s, is something Coach Wooden said frequently), Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore[2] explain, from their first-hand experience, how Coach Wooden place his priority on teaching individuals with an “emphasis on the development of individuals, and the ability to blend talents into a smooth-working unit.”[3] The focus was on the individual with the result of improving the group – or team.  Wooden would say, “We must get our players to believe that the best way to improve the team is to improve themselves.”[4] Wooden summarized it this way:

Each of us must make the effort to contribute to the best of our ability according to our individual talents.  And then we put all the individual talents together for the highest good of the group….Understanding that the good of the group comes first is fundamental to being a highly productive member of a team.[5]

Wooden’s objective was to make the basics so automatic with each player that they never needed to think about them – they would simply react instinctively using the basics, which would free up their mind to do the higher level thinking of the dynamic situation present before them – the ability to react properly on the fundamentals (repeatable processes) while responding to constant changes in the gemba (higher level observation and analysis).  Whether it is basketball or the shop floor the same principles apply.  In summarizing – solving problems at the basic level while simultaneously solving problems at a more complex level.  Developing each individual with these abilities then teaching them how their role fits into the function of the group.  Building a strong team by building strong individuals.


[1] John Wooden as a three-time Basketball All-American collegiate player at Purdue University, where he also won a National Championship, a 1932 graduate of Purdue University, and coached Basketball at UCLA winning the National Championship an unprecedented 10 times – with 7 of those championships in a row.  He was named coach of the year 6 times and is beloved by his former players.  He also was played in the Indiana State Championship 3 times in a row, winning the Championship in 1927.  He was a 3 time All-State player.  He is also famous for his Pyramid of Success.  He was also named to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (Purdue) and coach (ULCA).

[2] Swen Nater played for Wooden at ULCA from 1971 to 1973 (2 seasons) winning National Championships each of the two seasons.  Ronald Gallimore, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus at UCLA and did research on Wooden’s teaching and coaching methods during the 1970s.

[3] Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore, 2010, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices, (Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology), p. 114.

[4] Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore, 2010, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices, (Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology), p. 137.

[5] Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore, 2010, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices, (Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology), p. XX.

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