Category Archives: common sense

A Legacy of Lean Thinking

This article is a reprint from an athlete that I have had the pleasure of training over the last 10 years. She is one of the stars of the Back-to-Back Virginia State Championship team that was the focus of my previous article Trust the Process – Winning is the Result. It is awesome to see how implementing a culture of Lean Thinking into training not only helped our athletes on the field but, it is shaping them for success off of the field.

Reprint from

How Data Analytics Helped my Team Win Two Championships—And Predictions for Much More

  • Published on November 24, 2019

Courtenay KaplanNCAA Division 1 Athlete at Radford University1 article Following

Prior to my first graduate-level course at Radford University, I had no real hands-on experience with data analytics. The idea of using codes and equations to compile data into meaningful sets intimidated me as I was unfamiliar with the process and unsure of the skill level needed to complete these computations. Yes, I took the required information technology class during my undergraduate classes to teach me on how to organize and clean up the data I was given, but I had no idea about the countless opportunities to group, sort and analyze the data in ways that could be useful to taking future action. Luckily, I was able to start my master’s degree in marketing this year and enrolled in business analytics course.

Throughout the semester I started to realize the impact that analytics can have on any operation and how useful it can be if performed correctly.

Not only am I a student at Radford University, but I was a goalkeeper on the Women’s Soccer team for the past four years. During my junior year, my team was fortunate enough to qualify for the championship game in the Big South Conference. While we were preparing for the match, our coach showed us film on the opposing team. Through the program InStat, we were able to analyze statistics about the opposing team such as how many of their shots landed on the goal, how many shots came from varying distances, as well as what percentage of their attacks came from either side of the field, to name a few. The statistics that were laid out were completed through analysis of the team’s entire season and their performance. With these insights, our knowledge of the team grew tremendously, allowing us to predict their attacks or at the very least, be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. This awareness allowed us to form a strategic plan to defeat the opposing team. I believe it even helped me stop a penalty kick in the championship game. We watched every goal their star striker had that season. We knew which foot she favored, as well as which side she consistently shot her penalty kicks to. I knew which direction to dive based on analysis of the statistics we gathered. I can’t imagine heading into a game without these analytics. It would be the equivalent of not studying for an exam or prepping for a presentation. And, yes, we won the championship! In fact, we won back to back championships and I believe statistical analysis played a large part of our success.

The impact that analytics had on my team was a key factor to our success. As a collegiate soccer team can be compared to any business, aiming for wins or in other terms profits, while attempting to avoid losses, or costs. If applied correctly, the impact can shape the course of the organization’s future in a constructive way. As my coach prepared for the following season, he reviewed our own team’s analytics that were summarized in a simple manner so that whether you were a freshman or a senior, the technical jargon of the data was simplified.

Another major impact that analytics can have in the soccer world is throughout the recruiting process. Many young players across the nation are constantly trying to find new ways to stand out and become noticed by top schools. If soccer clubs around the nation were to upload their film to the database such as InStat, each of their players that are looking to play at the next level, could have analyses of their play at the ready for prospective college coaches. Many collegiate coaches are often too busy to watch lengthy highlight tapes of your best players over the course of a year or two. However, if you showed them the statistical analysis of how many shots per game were on goal as well as how many of those shots resulted in a goal, they would start to notice that numbers don’t lie. It would not only make it easier for players to get noticed but assists the coaches in finding consistently well-rounded players. They can compare the statistics of prospective players much easier by having data that is mainstreamed and centralized in one source. The coaches could also see how your play has changed over time to track improvement and consistency as those are driving key factors in finding a solid player.

If soccer club associations added this asset to their teams, I predict that the level of play at the organizations would also improve. Prior to having this program, I would reflect on my play and assume I did well if the final result of the game was in my favor. However, that is not always the case as I review the film from a previous game and see all of the action I had and how I dealt with it. I was able to decipher what my weaknesses were and what my strengths were in any particular game and take that feedback into the following weeks training sessions. Instead of covering all aspects of my play, I was able to focus my training sessions on areas that needed help, making my use of time more productive so that I could be a more effective goalkeeper. This change in training was crucial to a successful season as not only am I reviewing the film from previous games, but so are my competitors. This technology was pushing not only myself, but my teammates to a higher standard.

My mom is an elementary school teacher in my hometown and uses analytics to help drive her instruction. Formative and summative assignments are given throughout each unit of study to help inform her teaching. Formative assessments are benchmarks or checkpoints to make sure understanding is occurring. If formative assessments show students are not learning the material, then my mom knows to adjust her teaching. Additionally, throughout the year students in my mother’s second grade class take a nation-wide exam that evaluates their reading and math skills. The exam is administered three times a year to track the student’s growth and knowledge progression to ensure the teacher is adjusting their lesson plans for every student. These benchmarks give insights into how much information each student is retaining as well as their projected growth. Prior to these analyses, teachers were instructed to teach the curriculum as it is, whether they had excelling students who were bored or struggling students who were frustrated. Data analytics encouraged adjustments in teacher’s methodology as well as revealing insights on how far a student has come over years. I believe that this is a crucial addition to the education industry as this is such a critical age for learning and development in children. I predict that the future holds even more individual programs and lessons that match the student’s preference. The personalized learning programs would be focused on their interests and skill level on a nation-wide scale. The use of technology to help evaluate these students will be key as many young students are starting to become more familiar with technology and the advantages it holds in education. If students had their own personal tablets to complete interactive activities rather than standardized worksheets, it may reveal more useful data.

I predict that business analytics will be incorporated into not only into the bigger, long-term decisions of the organization, but into the small day-to-day operations as well. Organizations will start to incorporate trainings for all levels of the management to be familiar with the use of analytics in their specific job duties and how it can help them improve their procedures, productivity or efficiency. Schools will encourage and create new ways to incorporate business analytics into their courses, earlier on in the student’s education. This will give students confidence in data processing and analytics as well as experience with popular programming systems so they can move confidently in the analytics world. I also expect that the next surge of graduates will have data analytics as one of their expertise that they can bring to their job prospects. Due to the integration of business analytics into more day-to-day operations of organizations, there will be growing demand in graduates who have experience in data analytics. Rather than standing out with experience in data analytics, it will become an expectation upon graduation that you are familiar with analytics, if you want to compete in the job search.

Data analytics holds the power to insights that many organizations, such as schools or sports programs, can utilize to streamline their strategic plans in a productive manner. The key is to hold the data in a centralized and organized system to make the analysis easier as well as have employees that all understand the basics of analytics. The base knowledge will assist the organization in a unified effort of asking perceptive questions. These questions may lead to data queries that hold truths that are yet to be found. I’m excited to see in what other ways data analytics can assist coaches, teachers, professors, students, athletes and many other people who are aiming for success.

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Filed under Business, Coaching, common sense, consulting, efficiency, Human Performance, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Management, Marketing, process improvement, Soccer

A Holistic Approach to Reducing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse


Under the current administration, there is a renewed emphasis on reducing fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA) within the Federal Government.  While this is nothing new, historical initiatives have focused primarily on external threats and only moderately succeeded at reducing operational waste and have made little to no impact in identifying the fraud and abuse prevalent in certain areas of Government.  Historical approaches are top heavy, punitive, and rely on self or third party reporting with only negative consequences for those involved.

Figure 1Decades of experience show that fraud, waste, and abuse can be attributed to three sources: the external threat; the internal threat; and internal/external collaboration.  First, the external threat has received a lot of attention.  In this case, new laws, policies and systems (Figure 2) have been enacted to proactively identify and reduce fraud perpetrated by outside actors.  The second type of threat is the collaborative threat.  In this case, the threat is an external force working with unethical or willingly naïve officials within the Government.  This type of offense is often the most highly publicized aspect of FWA.  The third type of FWA is the internal threat.  In this case, internal Government personnel manipulate resources and abuse the system for unintended purposes.

As mentioned above, a number of important laws and policies have been implemented since 2002 with growing success in reducing the external threat.

Figure 2As we move forward in reducing FWA one must understand that the methods used for external threats do not apply universally to collaborative and internal threats.  The introduction of an insider as part of the equation creates a very different risk profile for the agency.  There are political and cultural implications when exposing an insider threat that do not exist with purely external threats.

To understand FWA and its threat to the Government and Taxpayers, we must come to terms with a common definition.  This is not as simple as it may seem and even with a definition, it is hard to determine what falls where without more clarification.  For the case of this paper, we will use the definition currently being used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (Figure 3).

Figure 3
With a working definition of FWA and an understanding of the FWA Triple Threat (Figure 1), we can now begin to address the issue that appears to be hiding in plain sight, the Internal Threat.   The internal threat comes in many forms, some examples are:

  • Low-Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) acquisitions for non-commodities.
  • The various forms of acquisition fraud
  • Duplicative programs and functions within or across agencies refusing to consolidate due to the “Uniqueness” of their program or mission on even the most basic of functions (i.e. badging, billing, human resources, acquisitions)
  • Promotions and bonuses in offices/agencies with declining performance and rising inefficiency
  • Artificial barriers to improvement (e.g., Union Agreements)

A New Approach

While current Government initiatives are focused on identifying fraud from external threats and the IG is investigating issues as they are identified, Management Science & Innovation (MSI) has devised a new approach to addressing fraud, waste, and abuse.  Rather than relying on intra-agency inspection and whistle-blowers to identify the effects of internal threats, we propose using a data driven and statistically sound analysis to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse within our organizations in the same way that we are beginning to defend ourselves from external threats.

The MSI approach requires organizations to proactively identify fraud, waste, and abuse and report it along with remediation strategies in a non-punitive manner.  Each organization is given six months to conduct an internal analysis on FWA using an approach that starts with operational outcomes as the handle for pulling threads that can lead to FWA issues.  This analysis is conducted by a third party, ideally from another agency or with contractor resources that are willing to accept OCI restrictions on future work, using proven risk detection, modeling, and analysis tools.

As part of the self-reporting phase, reporting organizations are immune from punitive action, unless egregious or clearly illegal behavior is detected, so long as they propose sound remediation strategies and where possible demonstrate action already taken. Reporting organizations are also given the opportunity to propose expected operational efficiency and effectiveness gains as well as a rewards and punishments system for staff.  From this foundation, the organization is tasked with two things: 1) executing remediation strategies and conducting any internal rewards/punishments and 2) implementing a system for detection and reporting of FWA that will integrate with the agency and Government programs for the elimination of FWA.  Organizations are also informed at the beginning of the process that should they report no findings in the initial six month study, there will be a complete FWA review of their program by the inspector general.

This new approach addresses the concern of FWA from a more positive perspective that emphasizes and prioritizes operational outcomes and works with organizations to understand the impact of removing FWA within their organization.  Additionally, it reemphasizes the importance of reducing the impact of waste by helping employees truly understand what waste is (Figure 4) and how it impacts Stakeholders.  In the case of the Department of Veterans Affairs we can redirect the conversation to the impact on the Veteran for example (Hypothetical):

  1. $100,000 in unnecessary overtime is equal to 10 Veterans receiving Dialysis Figure 4Treatments.
  2. $500,000 in improper billing is equal to housing as many as 50 homeless Veterans for a year.
  3. $1,000,000 in unnecessary acquisition costs is equal to as many as 10 additional Veterans receiving prosthetic limbs.

By refocusing the conversation on the stakeholders and applying a less punitive approach to detecting and preventing FWA, It gives motivated staff (the non-offenders) the opportunity to act in a positive manner and it gives the offenders an opportunity to change their ways and become part of the solution.  Ultimately, this new approach should transform the culture from one in which FWA is ignored and sometimes even tolerated to the point of being condoned to one where even the hint of FWA is adjudicated swiftly.

While there are a great number of organizations and leaders who will  stand up and praise there efforts to eliminate FWA.  These efforts are focused on the external threat unless an internal or collaborative threat has been exposed to them and the world by an outside source.  Unless a serious effort is taken to address the Internal threat and begin to undergo the serious transformational change effort that our government is crying out for,  we will never begin to scratch the surface on eliminating fraud, waste and abuse within our government.


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