The “Diving Catch” is a common metaphor in business, a baseball reference to the stretch-out catch of the fly ball that stops the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 9th and saves the day for the home team. In business, it describes that extraordinary effort on the part of an individual who, likely at the last second and possibly in the face of ridiculous odds or daunting challenges, saves the day for the enterprise.
Many entities, business, political, social, or others, recognize this phenomenon, whether using the “Diving Catch” phrase or some other metaphor. Large and small corporations alike are prone to the model. The diving catch is most often associated with deadlines and deliverables, two constructs that drive daily behavior almost to the exclusion of any other considerations. Those who are in position to make that extra effort, the last-minute delivery or the all-night preparation or the final product out the door before quarter’s end are the heroes of the moment.
As a culture, we place a high value on individual heroics. The diving catch is seldom about a team’s overall effort. Additionally, even team recognition nearly always includes a recognition of the efforts of a single person within that team, often the team lead or an outstanding individual contributor. Hero culture infers that anyone, given the right set of circumstances, can be a hero, for a moment.
Many company cultures tend to rely on the diving catch, elevating the hero mindset to the level that success can only be measured in terms of diving catches.
The irony of such a culture is that it is more focused on preventing failure than on driving success. Heroics require crises to be truly heroic. Without a crisis, large or small, there is no point in being a hero, because there is nothing to save.
By definition, crisis management is little more than failure avoidance and saving the day through extreme effort often becomes the goal or, at least, the means to an end.
Designing a system that wins because it is smoother and more thoughtful than crisis-based businesses can be a considerable competitive advantage. Winning without internal crises and the need for diving catches lends itself to a more efficient and effective way of doing business. There will likely always be a need for some kind of diving catch capability, but the standard for process success should be to be good enough at execution to not have to rely on it.
Organizational development, taken as a holistic method for architecting organizations and their systems, provides the tools and processes to pivot away from crisis-oriented diving catches and towards a more strategic and predictable model of operations. OD provides a framework for evaluating processes, systems, and especially talent, and taking the necessary steps to evolve the enterprise logically and pragmatically. OD weaves together the many process improvement tools and models with the necessary element of the people who operate those models, into a cohesive ecosystem for business success.
Organizational development provides the tools and processes to pivot away from crisis-oriented diving catches and towards a more strategic and predictable model of operations.
Particularly in these times, leading with this kind of intentionality will drive success for many entities, and failing to do so will have the predictably opposite result.
Author Terry Smith is a senior Human Resources leader, specializing in Organizational Development, as well as strategic and operational change management.