Catchball is simple. Regardless of who initiates a project (although it’s most commonly a manager), that person articulates the purpose, objectives and other ideas and concerns and then 'throws' them to the other stakeholders for feedback, support and action.”
This creates a bi-directional feedback loop. As in the game of catch, it is always clearly evident who has responsibility for the next action.
Discussing ideas and transferring the ownership of them is common in companies, so why give it a name and add more formal guidelines around something that is already happening anyway (or should be happening)? As with many Lean strategies, the point of catchball is to add intention and thoughtfulness to the practice. When viewed as a discrete part of the [removed] , it can be taught and performed consistently across the organization.
- Feedback and ideas from people at all levels of the origination
- Decreased barriers to cross-functional collaboration
- Clarity of ownership and accountability
- Alignment of goals and objectives
While most organizations tend to dictate strategy and tactics in a top-down way, catchball changes that dynamic. Strategies and goals still tend to be top-down, but there's input from lower levels of leadership as the strategy and goals are thrown back and forth via catchball. Tactics and opportunities for improvement tend to be bottom-up in a Lean culture, but again there's feedback from the managers and leaders. A Lean culture is neither completely top-down nor completely bottom-up.
When do you use the catchball process?
Catchball is an effective method of gathering information and promoting discussion around any improvements under consideration. It is most often used for complex initiatives that involve multiple departments, roles, or processes. It is ideal for these situations because it ensures that everyone who should be providing input has the opportunity to do so and can be heard without interruption. [removed] , [removed] development, and [removed] are all examples of situations that go more smoothly when catchball is used.
The rules of catchball:
Of course each organization may adjust the concept of catchball to fit their needs, but typically the following guidelines are observed:
- Everyone who should be involved in the opportunity for improvement has the chance to hold the “ball”
- Enough time is allowed for each player to fully investigate the plan and provide feedback and data before returning the ball to the manager or passing it to another player
- Everyone is on the same team, so all ideas and suggestions are welcome and given due consideration
- The person or team that has the ball accepts ownership and accountability
The idea of catchball in Lean has been called “simple, but not easy.” By being mindful of the give and take that goes on in your company every day, you can foster better communication, speed improvement, and increase your chances of achieving operational excellence.
Why not try the catchball processs?