Where’s the Ball?

by Jason Ogden | Jul 27, 2016

A recent conversation I overheard (ok, really I read it on Twitter) pointed out that in sports, the ball serves as the focal point of the action.  Spectator eyes are on either the person with the ball or the area immediately around it.  In team sports, of course, all other players have crucial jobs to be doing and working towards when they don’t have the ball.  But the immediate “action” is always around the ball.  

The conversation made me think about “the ball” inside of businesses.  Everyone has a role and a job to do, good organizations have clear accountability structures, and great companies are always working on the business to make it better.  The problem with this analogy is none of those things quite felt like the ball to me.  They weren’t where the “action” was.

In the context of the inner walls of a business, where’s the ball?  

Before this analogy completely falls off the tracks, let’s identify what the ball actually is.  As I see it the ball should be described as “the big right now thing.”

  • It’s the focus of the business and as such, largely consumes the energy and attention of the leadership team; they’re focused on where the action is.  
  • The ball is temporary, in that it will stay in one place for only so long.  The thing will resolve or something bigger will take its place.  In this way, the ball is a symbolic thing as it represents a focus and not an actual thing that is constant.  
  • The ball must also have a ballhandler, meaning there is a primary person responsible for the thing.
  • The ball should always be moving across the organization into different areas.  If the ball stays in one area for too long, you probably have real problems.  

So if there is always a ball that is moving and being passed around, what’s the ball in your business right now?  Whose job is it to know what and where the ball is?  Who’s got it and makes sure it’s not being dropped?  

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 by Jason Ogden

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