Podium finishes start with data!

    Kaizen: Improving sport administration will improve performance

    The Japanese word kaizen is heard often in boardrooms, quality circles, and sports. Though usually translated as 'continuous improvement' a more accurate meaning is 'change for the good' and represents a way of working rather than a specific thing. It is a touchstone in sport with teams, clubs, and national associations all talking about it, setting goals for improvement, and attempting to incorporate the concept into their culture. So, what is it and how does a commitment to improvement translate into practical policies and action in sport?

    Implementing kaizen means making incremental changes to procedures and policies. Small improvements. Decisions are made with the expectation that they will support efforts at improvement but also with the knowledge that if the changes don't work as planned they can be scrapped, modified, or replaced. This, too, is part of the kaizen.

    Sport associations and clubs can use several methods to implement kaizen into their management practices. The following list is inspired by an article on the Mind Tools website:

    • Actively look for ways to make processes better or more efficient. This applies to practices both small and large. Large assessments may apply to the way the organization is structured or its political processes. Everything should be on the table when looking for improvements and efficiencies.
    • Plan for when changes can be made. Some changes can be implemented immediately because they are either small or affect only a limited number of people. Bigger changes need to be planned for and perhaps implemented on a schedule due to their impact on the organization, its customers, or its employees.
    • Assess how changes might affect others and what you must do to a) make the changes attractive to other workers or groups in your organization, and b) help others embrace the overall idea of kaizen both individually and within the organization.
    • Reward ideas and don't limit where they can come from. Good ideas come from everywhere and from all kinds of members and employees. By rewarding ideas you give others a stake in the process.

    All organizations have to change just to remain relevant but the need for change is one of the hardest things to recognize. Often past practice determines present and future practice. This is the way we've always done it is heard often in meeting rooms. It's not so much a resistance to change as it is being satisfied with the status quo. It's a cliche to say that change is frightening but it is and for people who have become complacent in their niche in a sport organization any talk of change is threatening. This is why change in sport organizations is difficult. Officials at various levels and with various responsibilities enjoy the power that often accompanies responsibilities and are reluctant to welcome changes that may jeopardize their control.

    In one metric this unrecognized need for change stands out more than in any other. This is the comparison of national team performances with those of other countries. We saw this in recent weeks when the badminton squad performed poorly in the All-England tournament and when the president of the football association resigned primarily because he failed to raise the country's world ranking during the year he had been in office.

    In press appearances neither president offered a real solution to their associations problems. The badminton players were told to improve or else and the football association were compared to sheep.

    The mistake that both presidents made and one that associations continue to make is that of constantly comparing Malaysia's performance relative to other countries and never measuring internal improvement. How much have our athletes actually improved in an absolute sense? In other words, how much have they improved against themselves?

    The real question isn't how to beat other countries but rather how to beat ourselves. How to be better than ourselves. This is the real road to improvement. There will always be athletes that are better than us, but if we can focus on how we can constantly improve -- how we can become better than we are now -- then we will be keeping the big picture in perspective and will always be getting better, which is the true nature of kaizen.

    It's nice to come out on top in an athletic contest but if we're always comparing ourselves to our opponents then measures of improvement are relative to our competition, and not absolute measures against our own previous performances. Comparing ourselves to ourselves is the only real way to gauge improvement in sport. If we can learn to do this well, and consistently, then success against our competition will come naturally.

    Bill Price (price@sportkid.asia) is the owner and Chief Data Scientist at Sportkid Metrics.


    Don't miss any content
    Subscribe Now!

    The nine pillars of sport development - 02 May 2021

    Using training age to gauge athlete experience - 18 April 2021

    What would you do differently if there were no such thing as talent? - 04 April 2021

    Athlete development measurements and the lingo that goes with them - 21 March 2021

    Retention and Training Age - 07 March 2021

    Fear of missing out is hurting youth sports - 23 October 2018

    Deliberate practice vs. late specialization - 24 September 2018

    Is talent identification even possible? - 17 September 2018

    Who won the Asian Games? - 10 September 2018

    Re-thinking the mission of Malaysia's sport associations - 03 September 2018

    Using maturity offsets to determine age at peak height velocity - 27 August 2018

    The youth sport talent illusion - 13 August 2018

    The tip of the iceberg - 30 July 2018

    7 things youth sport coaches should know - 25 June 2018

    Who is responsible for athlete performance - 18 June 2018

    Creating a culture of achievement in sport - 05 June 2018

    Sport development in the headlines (sort of) - 28 May 2018

    Who won the Commonwealth Games? - 23 April 2018

    Kaizen: Improving sport administration will improve performance - 02 April 2018

    What can Malaysia learn from Norway about sport development? - 05 March 2018

    Dealing with more than one email address and other communication ideas - 26 February 2018

    What can you do to work more efficiently? - 19 February 2018

    LTAD: Training to compete - 22 January 2018

    Sport clubs are the lifeblood of national sport development - 15 January 2018

    Take a chance! - 18 December 2017

    How we calculate age in youth sports can have benefits and consequences - 11 December 2017

    Can bio-banding help reduce the relative age effect in sport? - 04 December 2017

    Understanding the role that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play in the athlete development process - 20 November 2017

    Great expectations: Expect more, get more! - 14 November 2017

    Why process is more important than outcome in a learning environment - 25 September 2017

    Sport associations are embracing physical literacy training - 18 September 2017

    Creating a true sport development system in Malaysia - 11 September 2017

    Who won the SEA Games? - 04 September 2017

    KL2017: Reporting individual sport results deserved better planning - 29 August 2017

    Can we please forget about ways to identify talent and just work on getting more athletes? - 07 August 2017

    Using the team selection process to boost motivation and increase athlete participation - 24 July 2017

    LTAD: The Train to Train stage - 10 July 2017

    LTAD: The Learn-to-Train stage - 26 June 2017

    Athletic training for youngsters - 12 June 2017

    Visualization and imagery in sports - 05 June 2017

    Young, single-sport athletes suffer more injuries and do not reach their full potential - 29 May 2017

    Transformational vs. transactional coaching - 23 May 2017

    Will they come back tomorrow? - 08 May 2017

    Advice to parents of young athletes - 01 May 2017

    Is VIP leadership of sport associations a good idea? - 22 March 2017

    What happens after an athlete's initial introduction to sport? - 27 February 2017

    "Where do athletes come from?" - 16 January 2017

    Understanding sport talent pathways - 09 January 2017

    Make 2017 the year of the growth mindset - 02 January 2017

    Teaching physical literacy skills in youth sport practices - 12 December 2016

    Developing sport from the ground up - 06 December 2016

    Pay for what you want - 21 November 2016

    The 10,000 hour rule: "Not for the faint of heart nor for the impatient" - 14 November 2016

    Parent involvement in their child's sport participation sometimes backfires - 07 November 2016

    How to do the measurements for determining peak height velocity (PHV) - 24 October 2016

    A foreign coach is not always the answer - 17 October 2016

    Tips on creating an effective coaching environment - 10 October 2016

    Peak height velocity and aerobic development - 26 September 2016

    Early sport specialization is still not a good idea - 19 September 2016

    What kind of data do we need to develop sports? - 13 September 2016

    The attrition and transformation models of sport development - 05 September 2016

    Solve for <x> - 29 August 2016

    Artificial elimination of athletes from training and competition hinders sport development in Malaysia - 15 August 2016

    Time is the most important factor in talent development - 01 August 2016

    What if opportunity never knocks? - 13 June 2016

    The long-term athlete development framework offers youngsters a chance at sport success and an active and healthy life - 06 June 2016

    Early sport specialization is not a good development strategy - 30 May 2016

    What does a declining population mean for sport? - 2 February 2016

    Coaching 'flow' - 11 November 2015

    The coach's role in creating a deliberate practice environment - 02 November 2015

    When should athletes specialize in a single sport? - 11 September 2015

    The Holy Grail of health, wellness, and sport development - 1 September 2015

    Revisiting the 10,000 hour rule - 10 August 2015

    The power of 'not yet' - 20 July 2015

    Let's stop trying to identify sport talent and start developing it - 22 June 2015