Is your team playing kiddie soccer?

What a beautiful Saturday afternoon in San Francisco! Amazing weather, bright sun, beautiful trees…..Love this place! My first weekend after moving to California from Michigan. Love this view from my balcony, I didn’t realize there was a park so close to our place. My wife and I decided to go check out the park with our toddler. Ten minutes in, my wife started chatting with few other mommies in the park.

While my wife was showing off her networking skills and making friends in the new neighborhood, the soccer enthusiast in me pulled me towards the side of the park where there was a kiddie soccer game happening with full energy.

It actually was my first time watching a kiddie soccer game. Wow, seemed like a lot of fun. All the kids were running around the ball and trying to kick the ball but no one was able to properly kick the ball. All the kids were running to where ever the ball was and the rest of the field was all empty. They all were in a circular formation and kicking their legs in the air, probably one out of 10 kicks would hit the ball and that too in a direction that was no where near the goal. But I have to say, every single kid was trying so hard, I could see the passion and energy in them.

Hey, wait a second! Am I experiencing Déjà Vu here? I have seen this kiddie soccer somewhere, seems very familiar, VERY!!

Oh, got it!!! Isn’t this how some teams try to solve their problems at work???

I am sure you have come across a situation where there is an organizational problem and a bunch of folks from different teams are trying to solve the problem from all directions with no structure, no coordination, no vision, no planing, no future proofing mindset. And “somehow” the problem will go away, very similar to how the kids will end up scoring a goal. Every one in the team gets appreciated for how they navigated the ambiguity and solved the problem. While this approach is completely OK for kiddie soccer, is this how you want problems to be solved in your organziation?

Now let’s talk about a professional soccer team, say the US Women’s soccer team (my favorite soccer team in the world). What happens there? Every role is defined, there is a game plan, players in the field are well coordinated, every opportunity is utilized positively. It’s not about who is kicking the ball and how many times but the focus for the team is to score as many goals as possible. And if similar situations arise in different matches, the team has the repeatability and reproducibility factor figured out.  What do you think about teams in your organization playing like that and tackling every single problem in that manner? How does that sound?

In my view, solving the problem at hand is very important but “HOW” you solve that problem will end up becoming MORE important for the future of your organziation.

It’s very unfortunate that chaotic, non-reproducible problem solving isNOT recognized as a problem across multiple teams and is accepted as a result of multiple popular excuses including “oh, we are like a startup and this is how we figure things out”.

I am not against kiddie soccer and I think it’s very cute. But, a team cannot be in a professional league and play kiddie soccer standard is what I am trying to articulate. If you are in a professional league, you have to play to that standard.

It’s a worthy exercise to sit back after solving a business problem and ask “Were you a kiddie soccer team or a professional soccer team during the recent problem solving process?”. The answer to that question could be the beginning to a paradigm shift!

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