I know, you're shocked. A blog posting from KD comparing our HR/Talent scene to the sports world.
It's just too easy and clear NOT to do. Case in point - Game 6 of the Phoenix Suns/Los Angeles Lakers series on Saturday night (May 29, 2010 if someone pops this out of a time capsule).
Here's the situation. Suns are down 17 to the Lakers, and it appears the series is over (Suns have to win to force a game 7). The Suns, working their normal substitution rotation, have their bench/non-starters in, who aren't getting a lot done. There's some friction between two players from the Balkan region of Europe - Sasha Vujacic of the Lakers and the Suns' Goran Dragic. Vujacic and Dragic basically hate each other and usually stop one step short of a catfight when they come on the court and guard each other.
So, the Lakers are in complete command - until - Vujacic hits Dragic with a cheap shot, resulting in a flagrant foul, free throws, the ball out and a six point possession for the Suns. From there on in the fourth quarter, the Suns roll, going on big runs of 12-2 and 16-4 to cut the Lakers' lead to five points with 5:35 remaining. All of that work happens with the Suns bench in the game, led by Dragic, who's clearly pissed off and determined to score at will against the Lakers.
Then, the Suns make a classic mistake. They take the hot hands out of the game, sitting the key bench players I'll define as key to the turnaround as Dragic and Jared Dudley (who had cooled a smoking Kobe Bryant off defensively during the same period Dragic was driving at will), so they can bring in mega-star Steve Nash and key defender Grant Hill. Dragic and Dudley go to the bench, never to return.
Result - the Suns lose all momentum. Nash can't get loose offensively against the Lakers in the same way Dragic did, and Hill can't guard Kobe with the same effectiveness that Dudley had. The Suns stop scoring and Kobe goes nuts with Dudley on the bench.
Game over - Lakers win the series.
The lesson? It's one thing to have set rotations and roles. You do this, I do that. It's good business to make sure your best, most experienced talent is front and center at critical times for your business. Writing a piece of code, doing a key presentation for new business, etc. I get that you want to have your historically best talent controlling your destiny at key times.
But history is just that. It's what happened in the past. At some point, as a leader/manager, you're going to see circumstances that make you question that move. It might be a young professional on your team that's clearly rolling on a project, or perhaps she's made a connection with the prospect that your veterans haven't and might be the best point to deliver the presentation as a result. Whatever the circumstance, you're going to have to make a judgment call. Is now the time to leave the veterans in the background and put the rookie front and center?
Do you have the guts to do that when it clearly makes sense? Can you take the heat/chippiness from the veterans who think it's their right/entitlement?
Welcome to the loneliest seat in the world. The leader making the call that today, the veteran we've rode this far isn't good enough. The veteran sits, the young professional plays.
Could you sit Steve Nash?