“Be in command and out of control…”

On page 118 of Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller Blink, he describes the management style of Lt. Paul Van Riper that led to unprecedented success on the battlefield.  Van Riper, echoes the words of management guru, Kevin Kelly:

“The first thing I told our staff is that we would be in command and out of control… By that, I mean that the overall guidance and the intent were provided by me and the senior leadership, but the forces in the field wouldn’t depend on intricate orders coming from the top. They were to use their own initiative and be innovative as they went forward.”

As a teacher, a coach, and a parent for that matter, the words, “in command and out of control” really jumped off the page and sparked instant reflection.

To be in command, clearly communicate intent, values, and standards.

To be out of control, trust your team’s (staff’s) skills, judgement, and experiences (and get out of the way).

As Gladwell writes, “this kind of management system clearly has its risks,” however it sure does “enable rapid cognition.”

What better way to develop our player’ skills, habits, and instincts?

What better way to empower our players to make instinctive decisions on the field (AND in life) that will “win” you a ball game?

Maybe THIS is what we all mean by “IT.”

Maybe “IT” can be defined as a player’s ability to take “initiative” and to be “innovative” on the field of play.

After all, game changing plays are exactly both: made under the guidance of a coach, but are created by the player in the spur of the moment.  

This is rising to the occasion.  

This is deviating from the play to make the game winner.

So, what if we could put our finger on it?

Would it change the way we coached? The way we practiced? The way we communicated?