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I met Wayne Hall for the first time when I was about 12 years old. It was during the Christmas Holidays and he had come home from college to visit his wife’s grandparents. His wife’s grandfather, Mr. Ed Hatcher, would occasionally help my father out on the farm. During that week we worked putting up fences on the farm.

Wayne was in school at the University of Alabama where he was a defensive star during Bear Bryant’s glory years. Pat Dye was his position coach. As we all know Pat Dye is known for his hard-nosed, very direct approach to coaching. Pat Dye recalled a conversation that he had with a reporter. The reporter asked how Wayne Hall was doing in practice and what kind of contribution he would make to the team. Pat Dye responded by saying that he would carry Wayne Hall into battle any day of the week. He went on to say that “Wayne Hall reminds me of an ole plow mule….when he gets tired, he has no intention of quitting…he will keep on going until he dies.”

When Pat Dye left to take the Head Coaching job at East Carolina, he took Wayne with him. When Dye left East Carolina to take the head coaching job at Wyoming, he took Wayne Hall with him. And when Dye took the head coaching job at Auburn, he brought Wayne Hall with him. At each of those schools, they turned the intensity up and turned the program around. I’m sure that Coach Dye and Coach Hall didn’t see eye to eye all the time, but there was no mistake about their mission…to be successful. As a result they won several conference championships while he was at Auburn, and put a lot of players in the pros.

Wayne Hall is out of coaching now, and I’ve been told that he spends a lot of time working in his church. I saw him at a social function several years ago, so I introduced myself and asked him if he remembers me…the little kid from 35 years ago. He said yes, and we reminisced about (the late) Mr. Ed.

Most people would think that Wayne Hall’s work habits were brutal, as Pat Dye described them. But I am sure he had a burning desire to be successful. I don’t pretend to know what really went on during those days or why he got out of coaching, and quite frankly that is not the point of this blog. The point is whether Pat Dye’s description of the mule’s work habits a good analogy of how we ought to approach process improvement initiatives. I don’t know, but it is something that I ponder from time to time. I do know that life is long, and like a lot of folks have said, it is a marathon, not a sprint. Someone once said that there is a time for work and a time for rest. I think continuous improvement is like this…there needs to be periods of replenishment, or else the drive for improvement will fade. Maybe that’s why we have called the process improvement events kaizen blitzes.

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