Watch the Game Film: Are We Looking Closely?

It was a relaxing day by the pool Sunday afternoon which afforded me time to get caught up on reading past issues of FastCompany.  The article Watch the Game Film (June, 2010) caught my eye, in part because the authors also wrote the No. 1 New York Times best seller Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.

The article’s premise: Coaches in the sports world at almost every competitive level have implemented some type of process to watch game films; from meticulous to obsessive it’s common practice.  “In the organizational world, where every day is game day, such analysis is less common. It’s unfortunate because studying game film can yield unexpected insights.”

To make their case the authors introduced Doug Lemov, former principal and teacher, now consultant to school districts that were desperate to improve.  He asked a great WHATIF question! “What if we could make teachers a little better?  There was a problem, though. No one knew what made some teachers better than others. Most people thought some teachers had “it” and some teachers didn’t.” I’m avoiding the itch to diss a boat-load of some my former teachers at this point. I’ll refrain.

Lemov suspected there was “technique underneath the teaching magic – and if he could find it he could teach it.” His friend, a wedding videographer, agreed to record some teachers who had “it” in action.  Five years and thousands of gigs of video later he concluded that great teachers have some things in common. Here are just two from his book Teach Like a Champion.

  1. Star teachers circulate around the whole space of their classrooms interacting with their students.
  2. Great teachers start class before the opening bell with a “Do Now” assignment on the board. Training the students to come and get started. “If a teacher can transform five minutes of ‘transition time’ into productive time, that’s like adding 15 extra class periods per school year.”

What if Lemov had not watched the game film? He would have missed the seemingly minute things that yield great results.

Yet many organizations seem leery about such practices, following up with the word “surveillance” as a push-back.  They dont’ necessarily need videotape to generate new insights or gain a different perspective in their pursuit for excellence.  There’s no need to put a Flip cam in the hands of workers.  Maybe organizations could look at “game film” in a different way.

  • What if employees were encouraged to watch the action of their team leader or the presenter from their company and write down their observations and honestly share them afterwards?
  • What if after client meetings the staff debrief in order to gain optimum feedback, offering “at least one positive example and one concrete suggestion about how to improve”?
  • What if senior level executives actually ask for honest feedback prompting them away from “brown-nosing” to constructive clarity.

Requesting feedback is a risky endeavor. People just may take us up on our offer and be honest with us. However, no matter how much it may sting in the moment the observations will go a long way to contribute to our personal growth and the organizations betterment.

What if you asked for honest feedback from your friends? They might actually give you the kind truth!

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