A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of being a part of a high school football coaching staff. The players which I coached were committed, hard-working, and competitive and possessed a similar talent and ability level relative to that of their competitors. Our coaches were experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated and knew how to successfully teach the techniques and strategies of the game to the players. Every year, during which I was a coach, our team had the potential to win the league and make the playoffs. Unfortunately, over the course of three seasons our team won only 46% of its games. Consequently, we never won a league championship or had the opportunity to compete in the state football playoffs.
The head coach was a brilliant tactician as well as an effective planner and organizer, however, he subscribed to the cliché, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In practice, what this meant for him was that if the offensive scheme or defensive scheme which the players were taught to execute did not produce the desired result (e.g. a season with 7 wins or more), then the offensive and defensive schemes needed to be changed. In three seasons we ran a different offensive scheme each year as well as a different defensive scheme each year. Subsequently, it was very difficult for the players to apply the experience they cultivated during the previous season because they had to learn a new and different way to play offense and defense each year. Additionally, it was difficult for the coaches to attain a level of expertise in teaching and coaching because they had to spend the offseason learning new schemes instead of building on what they already knew. In an ironic twist, the head coach unknowingly demonstrated the definition of insanity: the “same thing” he kept doing over and over again expecting to yield different and better results was implementing significant changes in the way the team played offense and defense from season to season. To no avail though, the team was consistently mediocre.
I empathize with clients who seem to suffer from the “flavor of the month” syndrome. While the intent of the change may be well meaning, lack of commitment to a change initiative and constantly changing from one initiative to another invalidates worker experience, inhibits the building of expertise, and reduces the credibility of the leadership. The aforementioned anecdote about the high school football team raises the question, how long should an organization (whether it is a team or a business) commit to implementing a change initiative before it is determined that the change initiative is not working?
Thoughts and comments are welcome.
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