Saturday July 21, 2012
Lessons in managing change from basketball game
Take On Change
By JOAN HOI
EVERY time we do a review after a change project, the significant success factor that crops up consistently is “the team members and the teaming”.
The people who successfully deliver change are those who know what they are doing. Even if they are doing it for the first time, they make the effort to learn fast. They have good follow through, they plan and think ahead, they anticipate issues and deal with them.
Team members consult one another, brainstorm and work out solutions together. A project problem or issue is not always an individual's problem-it is a collective problem.
People will stay late to help even if they are not from that team. They have a great sense of camaraderie from staying back together till the wee hours to do what it takes to deliver. It is a kind of friendship, care and bonding that is built because they are in the trenches together.
These are brilliant individuals but they do not work alone. They cross the finish line as one team, not as individuals or separate teams.
In reality, we don't always get the best people or the full complement of skills in our team. However, we work to get the best by aspiring them and managing the complexities of the personalities, dynamics and differing skills levels.
A few years ago, a CEO used to tell me why he was reluctant to buy talent. Now he has changed his mind significantly. Previously, he would say, “I cannot offer more because then the company's compensation structure will be out.”
Now he says, “if the person he brings in can improve the bottom line and meet the targets, he is worth the money.”
He knows he needs the best people in his team to compete and when he gets the results, it justifies the dollar paid.
So what happens when you don't have problems with finding the best talent because they are all in your team?
I don't normally watch TV but in my recent travel, I happened to catch Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN when he interviewed Mike Krzyzewski. “Coach K” as his is known, is the coach for the “Dream Team,” the American basketball team at the London Olympics.
Like the famous players in his team, Coach K is also well known and highly respected, not just for his win statistics in his career as a coach, but also his personality and commitment to helping economically disadvantaged students.
As a son of Polish immigrants, he is also regarded as a role model living the American dream.
With the Dream Team, the expectations are extremely high. For a favourite sport, not winning is like a “seismic bombshell.” For us, it would be like that costly, critical and high profile change initiative where not succeeding is not an option!
Coach K's challenges, are in Piers Morgan's words, “all these disparate great players,” “the greatest squad imaginable” and “guys who are top dogs in their teams, absolutely peerless.” He asks Coach K: “How do you deal with ego? How do you deal with them coming together? How do you get it to gel and to work?”
His reply: “Well, the very first thing is you're honest with them. You set standards of how you're going to live with one another. Like you look each other in the eye. You always tell each other the truth. I don't believe in this expression, “leave your egos at the door.” I want them to bring their egos in.
“And just when we leave that room, we go out with a collective ego which says United States basketball. We have to prepare like we expect to win, not like we assume we expect to win”.
“We should have great camaraderie, and make sure it's fun”.
Coach K challenged them to get their hearts moving and to remind them of the legacy when they can look back and understand that they played great in every ball game.
The lessons in managing the basketball and the team for change are very similar. If you want to win a basketball game, you choose the best players and play as a team.
It is both the skills of the individuals and their ability to work as a team which delivers high performance. It is the same with change.
● Joan Hoi, a former partner at Accenture, is looking forward to Linsanity at Houston Rockets!