NBA’s David Stern on Listening


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You might remember the story about how the NBA unilaterally changed to a new ball without much input from the players (or that was the complaint). The NBA later reversed course and went back to the old ball.

As part of a “Boss Talk” interview in the WSJ today:

WSJ: Is there a lesson from the ball incident?

Mr. Stern: The management lesson of that is listen to your employees. Our players have played with a composite ball in high school, college and international leagues. Maybe it wasn't sold as well as it could've been. The public has spoken. We have misstepped. We didn't listen to our employees and we have owned up to our own failures.

A good leader admits mistakes. A good leader tries to analyze what could have been done better. Bravo to Stern. It sounds like Stern assumed the ball would be accepted because players have used non-leather basketballs before. Bad assumption, it turns out.

With lean, or with any leadership challenge, there's a balance — there's a time to get input and there's time to make a decision. If you're going to make a top-down, decision, you'd better sell it… explaining why and then listening for input and feedback to make sure you're not making a mistake with your decision.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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