Why Management is Like Dribbling a Ball

This is interesting: Stanford Business School professor Charles O’Reilly on Why Some Companies Seem to Last Forever:

women soccer dribbling

What explains this longevity? Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Charles O’Reilly calls it ‘organizational ambidexterity’: the ability of a company to manage its current business while simultaneously preparing for changing conditions. ‘You often see successful organizations failing, and it’s not obvious why they should fail,’ O’Reilly says. The reason, he says, is that a strategy that had been successful within the context of a particular time and place may suddenly be all wrong once the world changes.

So running a business right requires minding the details but also watching the horizon. Eyes down, eyes up. At the same time.

Which reminds me that dribbling is one of my favorite analogies for business planning. In soccer or basketball, dribbling means managing the hand-eye or foot-eye coordination of the immediate detail while simultaneously looking up and watching opponents and teammates and plays developing. When I was coaching kids in soccer, I’d try to help them remember to also look up and not just down at the ball. The best players did this naturally.

It’s a cycle. Plan, with metrics and milestones. Review once a month. Revise. Do it again next month. That’s the way to last forever, according to O’Reilly. It’s the right way to manage the details and the long term simultaneously.

(Image: bigstockphoto.com)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *