In the spring of 2006 my husband, who was a fit guy on the cusp of hitting 40 (but who also smoked a half a pack of DuMaurier Lights a day), announced at a backyard gathering that he was going to complete a triathlon. When a buddy of his chuckled and said jokingly ‘You can’t do a triathlon!’ the bet was on! He began researching races and distances and finally settled in on the Graham Beasley Sprint Triathlon in Carleton Place, Ontario set to take place that July. For those not familiar with Tri lingo, the Sprint distance consists of a 500 meter swim, a 20 kilometre bike, and a 5 kilometre run. Well, he signed up and completed his first race on a very hot Sunday in July that year with a time of 01:25:08 hours. With little training before hand, he almost drowned in the swim even though he considered himself to be a strong swimmer, but did respectably well in the bike and run for a first timer; and later that afternoon was tiredly snoring away in his lazy boy.
Since that day, he has completed 10 Sprint Triathlon races, winning two bronze, a silver, and two gold medals in his age category, and his first Marathon (in under 4 hours!). His new goal is to complete the Iron Man Triathlon distance at the end of this summer and to one day compete in the Iron Man world championships in Kona, Hawaii.
How has he come so far so fast?
Simple–by applying the Lean principles that anyone who’s worked in manufacturing has heard about and/or applied themselves, he included. He started by creating a ‘Value Stream Map’ of his race process and looked for ways to ‘continuously improve’ his finish time. He quit smoking, increased his training regime by more than 15-20 hours per week, subscribed to online blogs and chat sessions with other triathletes in training for tips and tricks of the trade and acquired the necessary equipment to eliminate as much ‘Waste’ (in this case time, wind resistance, etc.) as possible.
Last fall he began training with a Garmin GPS watch that monitors his speed, cadence, pace and heart rate each time he trains so he can see what areas need work. This spring he invested in a brand new Cervelo P2 tri racing bike and now owns one of those funny looking bike helmets that makes him look like the Great Gazoo off the Flinstones! He re-examined his ‘Point of Use’ inventory in the transition zone, strategically placing his bike helmet, running shoes, sunglasses, etc, such that they were available when and where he needed them to be.
He finished his first race of this season with a time of 01:15:41 hours averaging upwards of 40km/h on his bike and setting new personal bests in his swim and run times; and he continues to look for ways to get those times even a second faster.
The moral of the story is that every business or individual has processes/areas where waste exists and opportunities for improvement are there for the taking. There needs to be a commitment to regularly review one’s processes in order to identify those opportunities and take advantage of them, in turn eliminating the waste, and in the end continuously becoming a leaner organization.