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The Madden Curse and Lean

In order to keep the football season alive just a touch longer, I wanted to talk about the “Madden Curse”. This is the theory that any player that graces the cover of the video game’s box will have a sub-par season the following year.

As far as the theory goes, it is reasonably valid. Many of the players over the last decade or so have suffered far worse seasons the following year.

Here’s the thing, though. Who gets put on the box? Players having a career year. And most great seasons, Madden or not, are followed by a lesser one. It’s hard to follow outstanding athletic performance with an even better year.

For example, career seasons are injury free. Many of the players on the cover suffered either season-ending injuries, or had nagging ones that affected their play the following year. My quick analysis of the players’ performance the following year is as follows:

Madden Curse 2000-2009
Result Count
Retired 1
Season-ending injury 1
Injury 2.5
Decline 1.5
Bad Year 2
Good Year 2

None of these numbers seems out of whack for the risks a player has if he doesn’t get on the cover. Many players who weren’t on the cover, for example, also had injuries. I didn’t do the research to see what this chart would look like for the whole roster of NFL players, but I suspect it wouldn’t be grossly different.

OK, how does this relate to Lean? In your process, unlike in a football player’s season, you can work to eliminate the abnormal conditions that prevent the numbers from going up continuously.

You’d use TPM (total productive maintenance) to prevent the decline in skills related to age. (TPM Books)

You’d look at the causes of injury—the abnormal conditions—and adjust the process through kaizen. Unlike football, you have far fewer restrictions about what you can do on the ‘playing field’, your gemba.

Your Standard Work would prevent bad years. (Standard Work Books)


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