I was watching the hockey playoffs last night and had a thought about business. You might not find that strange given that for several years of my life hockey WAS my business. However, what occurred to me has both broader application and a less-obvious path. It has to do with obstruction.
Getty Images via @daylife
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, obstruction (and its cousins hooking and holding) is what players do to decrease the flow of the game. An easy way to think of it is as a player preventing another player who doesn’t have the puck from skating, obstructing their ability to play. Almost a decade ago, the NHL cracked down on the practice by enforcing the existing rules against it in an effort to improve the flow of the game and allow the more skilled players to show those skills. As one might expect, teams adjusted their rosters over the years to emphasize great skating and stick-handling over the clutching and grabbing that was so prevalent .
Watching the game last night, I was struck by how little free-flowing skating was going on. Many of the other games I’ve watched during the season have seemed the same. The rules, or at least their enforcement, seem to have changed. Which is the business thought.
If you’ve built your team to play the game a certain way and the rules change, how do you compete? If you’re a media company that’s built on ad revenue for eyeballs, what do you do when the audiences you’re selling evaporate to other channels? If you’re selling SEO, what happens when the algorithms change and everything you do is now wrong? Even if you’re in online commerce, what do you do with inventory when tastes change?
Ultimately, I think our success and failure revolves around change management – what happens when the rule book gets modified. We need to be thinking about that as we bring on new hires – how well have they dealt with change in the past? We need to maintain flexibility in our planning – why spend money to a budget that’s based on old rules?
I’m sure it’s frustrating to the coaches and managers when they find a different set of rules on the ice than in the rule book. I know it’s frustrating to find a different set of business conditions and consumer preferences. What do you do when the rules change?
I’m kind of tired this morning. I stayed up to watch the first overtime period of a hockey game last night, which turned into a second period and then a third. In the NHL, playoff overtime periods are the same 20 minute length as a period in a regular game, so it was the equivalent of watching almost a complete second game. The thing that always strikes me about OT (as overtime is commonly known) is how the players deal with it. After all, they’re told to put out 100% effort during the game, so what’s left in their tanks if they’re doing that?
(Photo credit: MelvinSchlubman)
It’s a good question for all of us in business. Then again, we don’t play OT since there’s really no game clock any more. Overtime is the quaint notion that there is work beyond normal working hours for which we get paid additional money. Of course, with our “always on” technology, it’s not unusual to receive (and reply to) emails and documents at any hour. In fact, I’ll bet most of you get antsy if you send a note at any time and don’t receive a reply within an hour.
There are lots of issues here. The biggest is the same one the players face. They’ve given everything they have to win during the allotted time and then find out that because they haven’t accomplished the goal they’ve got to continue to give more. Can they? These OT games often come down to conditioning and team management – who’s got the fresher legs. That’s why as managers, we need to make sure our people are pacing themselves since there is no clock in business any more. Sometimes our best performers will burn themselves out if we don’t make sure they’re turning off the mail and setting the phone to mute, at least on the weekend.
The notion of paying people for overtime work is a fair one yet I don’t know how anyone keeps track. Business is not just done in the office and burnout can happen anywhere. There is no clock in business – most of us don’t “punch in” and “punch out.” As a result, we need to be cognizant that the game might go into OT, the little breaks in between periods of game action won’t be enough to fully recover, and we need to have the stamina to compete.
If you’ve seen Happy Gilmore you understand the notion of someone who is skilled at one thing transferring those skills to something else. In the film’s case, Happy’s ability to smash a slap shot was a perfect antecedent to his long drive skills in golf. As an aside, it’s not all fictitious: I”ve played golf with many hockey players from the NHL level on down and almost without exception they play golf quite well.
Image via Wikipedia
This got me thinking about if the same is true in business – someone who is successful in one industry can transfer those skills to another. Here’s my thinking and I’d like to get yours: Continue reading