This is a story about the value of every minor detail.
Good professionals — people paid to do one thing well, and who generally succeed in the attempt — learn very early in their careers, no matter what they do, that if they tend to the little details, the quality of their work improves.
In many cases, incorporating each detail into one’s daily practices and habits does not necessarily transform their work. To put it a better way, the value of one small detail here or one granular aspect of work over there might not show up very often.
However, on a February Tuesday at 4:13 p.m. or a November Friday at 10:51 a.m., a situation will arise in which that one detail is going to matter. In that moment, one realizes why the little things count; why they add up to something; why they create supremely prepared employees and thought leaders who, in turn, build a winning organization — in sports, in journalism, in politics, in manufacturing, in technological innovation, everything under the sun.
The Golden State Warriors have made themselves into a winning NBA organization. Crossover Chronicles writer John Cannon covered the entirety of the playoffs from a San Francisco Bay Area perspective — you can read John’s complete April-through-late-June articles (and listen to his podcasts) at this link.
One resonant theme coursing through John’s written and broadcast work during the Warriors’ march to the title is that Steve Kerr and his coaching staff were prepared for every contingency. They watched their team lose two straight games to the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers… and then they fixed the problems they needed to fix.
One’s an accident, two’s a trend — in the NBA playoffs or in any other realm of endeavor. Three’s a crisis, and four is “season over.”
The Warriors never did face a crisis — they were staggered and knocked off balance, and they definitely had to sweat, but they never had the knife at their throats, because they learned how to fight their opponent. Steve Kerr learned how to move his pieces into position, helped by assistant coach Alvin Gentry (now an NBA head coach once again in New Orleans)… but also by 28-year-old video coordinator Nick U’Ren, who came up with the suggestion before Game 4 of the NBA Finals to start Andre Iguodala and bench Andrew Bogut. It was merely the idea which changed the series, enabling the Warriors to win their first NBA title since 1975.
The most impressive thing about that change by the Warriors is not that Kerr made it, but that he listened to his 28-year-old video coordinator. Not all organizations demonstrate open communication like that, but it reinforces the point at the heart of this piece: Every small detail matters. Every person matters. Every piece of input matters.
It’s a lot like baseball: Managers can’t remain wedded to the idea that “your eighth-inning guy is your eighth-inning guy, no matter what.” If you need to put your closer on the hill in the eighth against the opponent’s best hitters, you do it. You adjust to meet specific situations instead of assuming “the way things have always been done” will suffice.
Enough prelude, then. The Warriors — from Kerr to general manager Bob Myers to executives Peter Guber and Joe Lacob — think in fresh ways. Fresh thinking is precisely what gave the Warriors’ ownership group the vision needed to cut ties with Mark Jackson and bring aboard Kerr, even though Jackson helped lead the organization out of the wilderness.
That new way of thinking — one rooted in the belief that no detail is unimportant — has manifested itself in the Warriors’ 2015-2016 home schedule.
Organizations can generally set the times for non-ABC Sunday home games. When Golden State struggled in each of its two Sunday games in the NBA Finals against Cleveland — losing one (Game 2) and being roughly even after 43 minutes of the other (Game 5) despite the Cavs’ extremely thin bench — the thought sprang into living color:
Since those two Sunday Finals games tipped off just after 8 p.m. Eastern — 5 p.m. local time in Oakland — it was reasonable to posit that the Warriors were not used to preparing for a 5:00 game in their own building, their own city. The Cavs were playing those games at 8 p.m. according to their body clocks.
Yes, Cleveland’s effort and determination — plus some nerves on the part of the “hadn’t been here before” Warriors — certainly contributed to the sluggish outings for Golden State. Nevertheless, being unfamiliar with at 5 p.m. start couldn’t have helped the Dubs.
Surely, this columnist wasn’t the only person in the country who arrived at the simple conclusion: “You know, the Warriors should schedule some 5 p.m. local time home games next season, should they make the Finals. It might come in handy.”
Well, guess what, NBA fans?
On the last two home Sundays of the 2015-2016 regular season, the Warriors scheduled 5 p.m. local time games at Oracle Arena. You could look it up.
There’s no need to write a few hundred additional words on all this. The explanation has already been given, the contours of a thought process and an organizational culture revealed and outlined.
The Warriors get it, man. No detail is too small to matter.