My lovely wife has decided to train for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon later this summer. She runs casually and even did the Santa Barbara Half Marathon a couple years ago, but 26 miles of running requires a whole new level of endurance. Although she hasn’t quite joined me into the 40’s yet, it’s still a huge feat at any age.
We’re lucky in that we have a six mile long stretch of nice wide beach basically right outside our front door with a climate that allows year-around comfortable running (a special hello goes out to all our upstate New York readers!). But training for a marathon takes a little something extra in terms of motivation and coaching, so Kim joined Team in Training. TNT, part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is the world’s largest endurance sport training program. When you sign up you agree to raise a significant amount of donations and in exchange TNT provides expert group and individual coaching, a strong social network, and transportation to the event. It apparently works, as since 1988 almost 300,000 participants have raised more than $660 million, with 99.5% achieving their athletic goal.
Just last month one of our lean blogger friends, Kathleen Fasanella of the Fashion-Incubator blog, finished the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix as part of the Team in Training program. In fact, she was the top fundraiser for the entire state of New Mexico.
My wife also has to raise a chunk of change for a very worthy cause, and Team in Training makes it easy via her individualized donation web page (hint hint…) and she is also selling and donating some of her custom beach glass jewelry on her Kahu Designs website.
There’s are several reasons why Team in Training is so successful, many of which have analogous attributes to lean manufacturing, the Toyota Production System, and just plain good leadership in general.
First off there’s a strong knowledge of who the customers are and what the value is. Team in Training generates cash for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. To do this they also create value for casual athletes by providing expert coaching and an infrastructure that lets people of all shapes and sizes achieve something rather extraordinary and occasionally life-changing. Team in Training, via the website and the coaching, makes it clear in an ongoing and direct way that you are helping a worthy charity. This helps the participants truly connect with a cause. Very similar to how the most successful lean transformations are often linked to a cause: surviving a business or competitive crisis. If the employees are actively engaged, respected, and included, they will help create operational excellence.
The program is so successful because it has been fine-tuned and proceduralized over the last twenty years. A very specific training plan is used, day-by-day and week-by-week, up until the event. A very specific number of coaches and mentors, support systems, weekly learning topics, and actual event coordination. A detailed playbook… a form of standard work. The process is reviewed after each event to create continuous improvement.
That playbook is deployed in a very organized fashion. Coaches and coordinators supervise and train other support personnel called mentors, who have actually run the event before. This group of people use specific tools and methods to help the participants train, provide feedback, and motivation. Just like the job instruction, job methods, and job relations of training within industry.
The power of teams and teamwork is obviously critical. There are common goals, both in terms of helping a good cause and achieving something that seems out of reach to most people. That in itself is hugely motivational. The weekly group long run keeps the overall group in touch, and you hook up with "buddies" to run during the week. When you are at the event, all Team in Training participants have common logo shirts and they go out of their way to cheer each other on.
Look at any truly successful organization and you’ll probably see many of the same characteristics. Continuous improvement, defined methods supported by effective training, and a recognition that people create success.