Monday, April 30, 2018


It's well chronicled of my passion for reading.  It has made us better in so many ways from organization to leadership to team building to personal growth.  Every now and then I come across a passage that creates a "wow" effect for me.  I found such one in Tom Peter's new book "The Excellence Dividend."  Two of Mr. Peter's book have really resonated with me -- "In Search of Excellence" and "The Pursuit of Wow!" so I have been looking forward to reading his newest book.

Early in Section I on Execution, Mr. Peter's quoted Fred Malek whom he'd worked with in the White House in the early 70's:

"Execution is strategy"

It hit me like a thunderbolt in the strength of it's message in only three words.  My years of coaching have brought me to a realization of the importance of the process.  Studying some of the best from John Wooden to Nick Saban has taught me that the process is more important than the result because it is what leads to the result.

As Coach Don Meyer would say, "It's not what we do, it's how we do it."

As coaches, we sometimes get lost in complete big picture thinking without enough or even any thought to the details involved in success.  Excellence is in the details -- our ability to execute those details.

I read an article last week on Houston Rockets associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik who has an reputation as a great defensive coach.  Here is a quote about his work:
“He will break down a defensive drill like I’ve never seen before,” Bzdelik’s then assistant coach Scott Brooks tells me. “Where your left hand [goes], where your right hand, where your left foot, where your right foot, where your chest, what you’re thinking of. He has it down to every minute detail and he’s really great with technique and being able to explain. He’s one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
Sometimes we as coaches consider a defensive breakdown drill as part of our means of improving execution -- and it can be.  But it was interesting to read that Bzdelik breaks down the breakdown drill.  That's a commitment to execution.

It's not enough to have a game plan or a goal.  We must be detailed and intentional in the path we take to achieving it.

In the book "Practice Perfect," by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi, make the following observation on the legendary John Wooden:
"Though we remember him for the championships, what ultimately made Wooden great was practice."
"Practice Perfect" also brings out the point that we can sometimes lose our focus on excellence by putting too much stock into hard work when it comes effectiveness.  They quote Wooden as saying "Bustling bodies making noise can be deceptive."  

And then there is one of my favorite Wooden quotes I often share with our teams: "Don't mistake activity for achievement."

It is critical that we are intentional in all that we do in striving for excellence.  If we want proper execution, we must be intentional in the detail we put into our work.  We shouldn't expect cutting and screening to be effective during a game in moments of distress if we aren't demanding proper execution at all times in practice.

Quite possibly the best that's ever coached in the NFL understands the important of practice and the role it plays in developing execution.  When the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick was told by a media member of all the success their team had accomplished in terms of wins and championships and then asked what would be the next goal for him he followed with:
"I'd like to go out and have a good practice today.  That would be at the top of the list."
Belichick understands the importance of practice, habits and execution.

Nick Saban is also a big believer in the importance of the process and brings the value of the mental aspect to execution:
"When researches compared whether process or analysis was more important to making good decisions, they discovered that process mattered more than analysis by a factor of six.  But the reverse was not true - superb analysis is useless unless the decision process gives it a fair hearing."
I often meet with my players do discuss their "why."  I want to know about their dream and visions for the future.  But I always tell them they have to dream in details.  It does no good to dream of playing professional basketball if you don't have a deliberate plan to execute -- all the way how you spend the minutes of your day -- and that must be part of the dream as well.

I'll close with yet one more thought from Coach Wooden on the importance of details and execution:
"Races are won by a fraction of a second, National Championship games by a single point.  That fraction of a second or a single point is the result of relevant details performed along the way."