In a Position to Lose

As a youth sports referee I am always cognizant of not wanting to “decide the game.”  One of my fellow referees put it best when he said “let’s be invisible out there.”  He didn’t mean don’t make calls.  He meant let the game flow and keep it within the rules so no one even noticed we were doing our job until the end of the game when they say “wow that was a great game” between two teams and not even think about calls we did or did not make.

The reality is of course that we do get “blamed” for deciding the game much more often then is the actual case.  The losing team goes off whining that if this one call had been made (or not made) the whole outcome of the game would have been changed.  That attitude gets amplified if the call is made near or at the end of the game.  That brings me to the ruckus over the Green Bay – Seattle game.  Was there a bad call at the end of the game? Yes.  Is that why Green Bay lost – No.

Before the cheeseheads threaten me with death due to heresy let me explain.  If you watched that game – in particular the first half – you do have to point out that the eight sacks of Aaron Rogers and no points scored in the first half (not to mention kicking field goals instead of getting touchdowns on two drives early in the second half) had as much to do with Green Bay losing the game as one bad call.  Face it, Green Bay’s poor play put them in the position that one mistake (by them or by the officials) would result in a loss. 

So what does this have to do with business?  Actually, a lot.  There is a very important lesson here for anyone in business (or anyone in life for that matter).  The lesson is that when something goes wrong, all too often we focus on the “final event” and want to pick that event apart to make sure the event never happens again. That actually can lead to extra inefficient work and poorly constructed controls.  Instead, just as the Green Bay loss was set up by poor performance on the 120 plus plays (events) before the final bad call, business needs to look at the entire process and determine where and when controls should be put in place to truly minimize the potential for a bad outcome over the entire cycle, be that a day, month or year.

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