The Tools of the Trade

At most companies, employees are, by far, the most valuable resource. All of the gadgets and machinery in the world won’t turn a profit if they don’t have smart, capable people behind them. At the same time, certain “stuff” can make those people’s jobs easier and enhance what they are able to contribute. In order to maximize efficiency and innovation, management needs to recognize the value of the employee without entirely writing off the value of other resources.

For an example of the difference some well chosen physical resource can make, I want to compare two friends who are both hockey coaches. Both friends coach at schools with competitive hockey programs and both schools have the financial ability to fund new programs if they deem them valuable. The difference between the schools is largely in the attitudes of the administrators.

One friend, Mark, coaches at a school whose administrators place a lot of value on innovation and will generally jump to fund anything their faculty and staff believe will help advance the school’s mission. My other friend, Jon, works at a school whose administrators also place a lot of value in the caliber of their faculty and staff but have less use for cutting edge technology or other things they deem “unnecessary extras”.

The result of this is that when Jon wants to show players video of a game, he needs to go borrow an ancient video camera from the library, record the game, upload the video on to his computer and spend hours piecing together the frames. He would then have to reserve a room in the school with a television and call a special meeting to go over the edited tape, pausing, rewinding, and jumping around trying to show his players where their breakaway was breaking down.

Mark on the other hand, had researched effective coaching software and had requested a sports video analysis program as well as a new top of the line video camera. With these tools, he was able to easily sort through his footage, isolate the moments he wanted to focus on, annotate key plays, and share everything with his coaching assistants and players online.

While both Mark and Jon are equally capable of running a great practice, recruiting talented players into their programs, and making good calls during high pressure games, just this one tool meant that Mark could prepare all of his game video in just a few hours while Jon either needed to devote at least a full day to video every week or just give up on using it entirely. Mark was then able to spend more time on other valuable aspects of his job like calling up promising recruits or attending a coaching symposium to learn new practice drills.

The administration at Mark’s school recognized that making game videos was increasingly an important component of a hockey coach’s job and gave him the tools to do this efficiently and well. Jon’s administration saw these tools as a luxury and thought that as a good coach, he would be able to make do with what he had.

In the end, good people do make all the difference, but unless they are given the tools to succeed, their value can be diminished.

Which model describes your workplace?

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