Re-Orgs Should Follow the Rules of Basketball, Not Baseball

A deep assumption that drives maladaptive behavior and bad business decisions in managers is that the organization plays by the substitution rules of baseball (or world football). Once you are taken out of the game, you are permanently out. This belief causes a manager to have an overly self-invested view of his or her charter. Your product or technology – as currently organized – becomes the most important thing on earth! If your career is, in effect, tied to that belief, then it is actually a matter of personal survival, and you start to sound to others like a turf-protecting, near-sighted self-promoter.

During a re-org, we use language like “who’s out.” When “out” equals irrelevance forever, the re-org is no longer about adapting to technology and the business, but entirely about personal winners and losers. Such a mindset can drag down the morale of the entire organization.

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Stars on the Bench

Under the rules of basketball (hockey, North American football), free substitution is permitted and expected. Even the stars go to the bench once in a while. Players (managers) go into the game according to the situation and their unique strengths, or sometimes just to give others a rest. Most importantly, they fully expect to go back into the game, maybe even in a somewhat different position/role. Versatility is highly valued. Some players even signal that they need to come out of the game temporarily. At that point the blinders are off and you are free and trusted to make the best decisions for the business and the larger group.

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