Tim Tebow as a Process Improvement Specialist? by Jason Kilgore

I like ESPN’s sports talk radio – Mike and Mike, The Herd, and SVP – probably more than I like the actual sporting events.  (It’s more efficient!) For the last five weeks, excluding Penn State, nothing has dominated the air waves like the subject of Tim Tebow.  The Denver Broncos, 5-5 overall, are 4-1 with #15 at the quarterback position.  The debate is whether Tebow’s presence is causal or coincidental.  More interesting to me is how his quarterbacking style serves as process improvement leadership style.  This unconventional QB demonstrates how to lead successful initiatives, whether they be Lean Transformations, Six Sigma, or business process re-engineering.

  1. “Win the crowd and you will win your freedom,” said Proximo to Maximus in the movie Gladiator.   When the Broncos were 1 and 4, Denver fans demanded a change at quarterback by booing Kyle Orton and chanting, “We want Tebow.”  So, out went Orton, in went Tebow.  Jumpstarting cost-saving and quality-enhancing initiatives often require that we lead with that same level of influence.  It is not enough to dictate to our staff the objective.  We must inspire them to achieve great gains.  We can do this by first setting a clear vision of what it is we want to accomplish.  And then, lay out the path to get there.
  2. Determination trumps expertise. The experts say Tim’s throws are inaccurate and his footwork in the pocket is clumsy. What I’ve seen in him, both as a Florida Gator and a Denver Bronco, is a person who is determined to win.  Whether he succeeds long-term is anybody’s guess.  But whatever his future success, it will be the result of his determination rather than his level of expertise.  I read a number of Lean, Six Sigma, and process innovation blogs and forums. I get a HUGE laugh out of the passionate arguments among the self-proclaimed and unemployed experts over the most insignificant aspects of PI methodologies.  This proves to me that so many in my chosen field have yet to figure out this simple truth:  It’s not what you know; it’s what you deliver.
  3. Adapt when the play falls apart. At the end of the recent Brocos / Jets game, the Broncos went 95 yards in the last 58 seconds to score the winning touchdown.  Tebow passed for 35 of those yards and scrambled for 57 of them. Have you ever had a project that obeyed the timeline you set for it? Something always goes wrong. Success is more about our ability to adapt than our ability to follow a plan.

Implementing changes to our business processes is not easy.  The variables are largely unpredictable.  Organizational inertia is inevitable.  But, the leader who can win over his staff, rely on determination rather than expertise, and can adapt to busted plays is the leader who will succeed in bringing about meaningful change.

Jason Kilgore

Author of The Elegant Process

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