There’s something about fundamentals that basketball players love.
(Tex Winter — Phil Jackson’s assistant coach, credited with refining the Triangle Offense originated by Coach Sam Berry):
Tex was a master at this. He had developed a whole series of drills to teach players how to execute fundamentals.
As far as Tex was concerned, the genius was in the details.
Phil Jackson — Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success
You can’t skip fundamentals if you want to be the best. Some guys are looking for instant gratification, so maybe they skip a few steps. It’s like they’re so focused on composing a masterpiece that they never master the scales. And you can’t do one without the other. The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether it’s proper technique, work ethic, or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out…
Dean Smith taught me the game. He taught me the importance of fundamentals and how to apply them to my individual skills. I had that foundation to work from…
You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them. The fundamentals will never change.
Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.
Michael Jordan — I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence
I keep thinking about the issue of the fundamentals.
It was one of the themes that kept cropping back up throughout the book Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson. He kept coming back to the requirement to master the fundamentals in order to effectively run the Triangle Offense, which he believed in and practiced and implemented.
So, I pulled out my little volume by Michael Jordan and re-read his chapter on fundamentals.
Think of all the ways we mess things up.
We write a too-quick e-mail, and we don’t look at/listen to the tone, or see the obscurity of our message.
We fail to listen, and so we make assumptions, and we blow it because of a failure to send, or receive, an important communication clearly.
We let a key, critical detail slip through the cracks.
We failed at the fundamentals.
It feels like we’re at a disadvantage in our work in the business world. We don’t have spring training. (Yes, that ‘s a baseball practice, not basketball). We don’t have a yearly pre-season training camp. There aren’t simple drills to run through at the beginning of our work day. We don’t take the court and dribble, or run through a few lay-ups, or do a shoot around. We don’t quite know what to work on the way a basketball team works on footwork and passing the ball.
But, there really are some fundamentals, and we really could work on them.
We have to first identify the true business fundamentals. Maybe this could be a beginning list:
#1 – Communicate clearly – in written form, in conversation, in presentations — DRILL IDEA: Read 3 e-mails a week out loud. Listen to/for the tone, the clarity, the readability.
#2 – Pay attention to your team. They will then do a better job paying attention to the customer. – DRILL IDEA: Meet with your team once every week, and re-ask, at every meeting, “what do you bring to the team that others do not?” Have each person answer in a sentence or three…
#3 – First, serve the customer, then serve yourself. – DRILL IDEA: Make time to visit one customer each week just to ask: “How are you using what we provide in ways that help you with what you do? What do you wish you had from us that you don’t have?”
An observation: in business, “drills” may have a lot to do with “regular conversations.”
We could find other lists of fundamentals. Here’s one I found, a little “broader” than my three, from David Shedd, who remembered these from his days at the Wharton School: 5 Business Fundamentals I Learned At Wharton:
Fundamental #1 – Finance and Accounting – It’s All About Cash
Fundamental #2 – Marketing – It’s All About What the Customer Values
Fundamental #3 – Strategic Planning – It’s All About Being in the Right Market
Fundamental #4 – Leadership – It’s All About Having the Best Team
Fundamental #5 – International Business – It’s All About Understanding the Other Person’s Culture
But, here’s the thing. Whatever the fundamentals are for your work, in your work, in your line of business, you’ve got to identify them, name them, and find a way to work on them. Develop some drills to help you work on them. Develop some progress measurements. Learn to do them well, then learn to do them even better.
Whatever else, this is true: you can’t ignore the fundamentals. As Michael Jordan put it, “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly.” It is so very easy to slip back in a heartbeat.
How are you doing on the fundamentals?
A good friend of mine used to say, “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” Think about that for a while.
Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins, in Bull Durham)