What Leaders of Change Can Learn from Goalies

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Shankar Vedandam has written another fine piece in The Washington Post. Learning from Goalies  I keep finding great lessons about change management in his Department of Human Behavior column.

When faced with crisis (i.e. financial meltdown, competition eating us for lunch, etc.), we tend to have a bias toward action. It is as if we believe that doing something is better than just standing there. It’s as if the research suggests just the opposite: don’t just do something – stand there.

Researchers looked a goalie’s behavior during penalty kicks. They could stay in the center, dive to the left, or dive to the right. Goalies tend to choose to dive to the left or right. When a goalie dives left or right, his/her change of blocking the kick is about 13 percent. But if the goal stays in the center, he/she is successful 33 percent of the time. Even with that higher success rate, goalies just can’t seem to help themselves – and they dive.

I think this says something about change in organizations. Do you agree or not?