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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Simple Visual in Hockey to Curb Violence

My oldest son has been skating for a few years and started playing competitive ice hockey on a team this year. On the back of the opposing team’s jerseys was a simple visual we all recognize, a stop sign.

This simple visual on the back of the jersey is a great way to make players STOP and think before they act. As it turns out this patch on the back of the jersey is part of a program called Safety Towards Other Players developed by Kevin Stubbington in 1996.

The STOP Program teaches participants about the dangers of checking from behind and other safety tips as well as values such as sportsmanship. “Checking from behind” is viewed as one of the most potentially dangerous actions in the game of hockey.

The STOP Patch is the focal point of the program. It is a three inch wide patch that is applied on the back of the jersey, centered just above the numbers and below the name patch. It is a reminder for players to “STOP” immediately and not make body contact when they see the patch because you are in a potentially dangerous position.

In operations we use this simple visual in much the same. Whenever we get an outcome that is different than expected we must STOP and think. Lean is about uncovering issues and solving these opportunities for improvement. We have used this visual to support changing our mindset toward Lean Thinking in our factories.

Simple recognizable visuals can be effective in changing behaviors just as this STOP sign on the back of a hockey jersey or in a manufacturing plant.


  1. Great points as usual Tim! I've found that the best "stop sign" is something that will take us out of the norm or make it part of standard work for people. The thing to know is that visual that stand out now and cause people to "stop" may be in danger of being "just another sign" and needs to be rotated. Out of curiosity, has the stop sign on the shirts helped to curb checking from behind in the league?


  2. Ankit I agree that visuals can by themselves if not reinforced can be common place and by which we could be complacent.
    As for the "stop" sign on the shirts I could not any statistics to support the effort. At my sons age they are still learning to skate and often bump into each other. It is a great tool for educating young players about checking from behind.

  3. Tim,
    This article brings up another point--standards have to be followed. Despite being against the rules and against the law, hockey at higher levels doesn't enforce a standard regarding fighting. Imagine if tennis or bowling had similar disregard for rules.(There was an old bowling commercial about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEXl7LiD22M)
    On the shop floor, standards, even with visuals, must be consistently followed to remain standards.
    Love the sports/Lean lessons.
    Jeff Hajek