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Manufacturing Strategy, Vince Lombardi & The Power Sweep

Fundamental - Few Frills - Teamwork 

Lombardi & The Sweep

Power Sweep

"Starr hands off to Hornung, sweep to the left side, he's got some blocks... He's at the five, cuts into the end zone for the touchdown!!

Forrest Gregg cleared the way with a beautiful block, the two guards, Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston, did a great job of pulling, and there you saw the Green Bay Packers Power Sweep..."

For a decade, Vince Lombardi's  Power Sweep dominated pro football. It used minimum deception and maximum effort, "four yards and a cloud of dust," perfect for Green Bay's ball-control offense. The power sweep was pure Lombardi: fundamental; few frills; teamwork.

Lombardi told his team: "Gentlemen, if we can make this play work, we can run the football." The Green Bay Packers did make it work, through constant drill and practice.

Vince Lombardi"You think there's anything special about this sweep? Well, there isn't. It's as basic a play as there can be in football. We simply do it over and over and over. There can never be enough emphasis on repetition. I want my players to be able to run this sweep in their sleep. If we call the sweep twenty times, I'll expect it to work twenty times...not eighteen, not nineteen."

"... on that sideline, when the sweep starts to develop, you can hear those linebackers and defensive backs yelling, `Sweep!' `Sweep!' and almost see their eyes pop as those guards turn upfield after them... It's my number one play because it requires all eleven men to play as one to make it succeed, and that's what `team' means."

"Every team eventually arrives at a lead play. It becomes the team's bread-and-butter play, the top- priority play. It is the play that the team knows it must make go, and the one the opponents know they must stop. Continued success with the play makes for a number one play, because from that success stems your confidence..."

Paul Hornung

Paul Hornung

"It (The Sweep) made everybody work as a team. It gave everybody enough responsibility that you took it upon yourself to do the best you could. And it became the best play in football."

The Lessons

Strategy is more art than science and manufacturing is certainly not football. Nevertheless, certain central themes are woven through all strategic thinking. Successful Manufacturing Strategies mirror these common themes:

  • Concentration on a few areas at any given time.

  • Correctly identifying "Leverage Points" or "Centers of Gravity."

  • Extraordinary competence in execution of the few critical tasks.

  • Appreciation and deep knowledge of the human and social aspects.

  • Charismatic, visionary leadership that brings it all together.

Finding Your Power Sweep

In most situations, 2-3 changes will have more impact than everything else in the Lean repertoire combined. Peter Senge refers to these as "Leverage Points" and von Clausewitz called them "Centers of Gravity." All efforts should focus on these leverage points through training, incentives and practice.

Lombardi understood these themes instinctively. It is why he concentrated on a few effective plays, like the Sweep, that his team had the talent for. He then practiced until execution was perfect.

Lombardi also understood teamwork and motivation. One reason he favored the Power Sweep is that this play both demanded and encouraged teamwork. Green Bay guards like Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston loved the sweep because it brought offensive guards out of their normal obscurity.

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