Saturday, May 7, 2011

Execution: You play the way you practice

We were watching our sons’ varsity volleyball team lose badly to a team they’d expected to beat when another mom leaned over and said, “I was worried about this game as soon as I saw the teams warming up.  You play the way you practice.”  Our team had come into the match confident that they would easily beat their opponent.  Maybe since they expected it to be easy, they thought they didn’t have to work too hard at it.  Whatever our opponents expected, they used their warm up time to practice hard and played to win.  Our team was going through the motions but they weren’t executing. 
It is often said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  For organizations, however, the individual parts do not usually come together on their own.  Organizations need leaders who not only set the strategic direction but stay involved to make sure that all parties are working together so that the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.  Do our people have the skills they need?  If not, is training enough or do we need to fill new positions?  Are people working in silos or are they pulling together as a team focused on a common goal? 
While the individual players on the volleyball team are all highly skilled, it is the coach who ensures they’re working together and working effectively.  Two days after losing to the team they were “supposed” to beat, the demoralized team faced their biggest rival and lost again.  Halfway through the second game, the coach started making adjustments to the lineup and they started to improve.  Over the next several days, the coach refined those adjustments, including giving opportunities to some of the “bench”.  They held additional practices, reviewed video of past performance and designed drills to address specific weaknesses.  They’re practicing to win because they’re learned an important lesson:  You play the way you practice.