Coaching and bug spray

Writing bout Klinsi, I am reminded of a story I heard in business school. A large corporation had made a very effective insecticide but they found it was not selling well. When they performed focus groups they learned that customers doubted the effectiveness

Seeming effective is not always the same as being effective

of the product because the bugs would crawl off after being sprayed. When the corporate scientists heard the feedback, they explained to the marketers that this was correct, the poison worked in 15 minutes. The targeted insects might crawl off but they were certain to be dead shortly.

To remedy the situation, the product people had the chemists add a paralyzing agent to the spray. This was not fatal; by itself it would wear off and the insect would survive. But together with the toxins in the original spray it created a customer perception that led to increase sales: the insects immediately stopped moving and then they died.

I think coaches (and all change agents) have to do the same thing: knowing that effective change takes a long time, they need to do something else that creates an immediate change, even if it is only cosmetic. This creates a perception of immediate results in the eyes of the customer and buys enough time for the real stuff to happen.

For a coach, this can be something like:

  • get rid of a marginal player
  • or a rabble-rouser
  • change the captain
  • add or reduce the number of training sessions
  • add a new player
  • change the system of play
  • announce or remove a curfew
  • change the dress code
  • change the pre-game concentration, the time and place where players must show up
  • intervene in nutrition and alcohol consumption

You will see these in sports pages all the time. One guy comes in and is a “disciplinarian” then his successor “is a player’s coach.”

You will see similar things when a business changes its CEO. What have you seen or done in these cases?

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