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Strategy, Trash Talking, and the Pursuit of Excellence

In his recent article, Reopening America, Jon Ungerland explores the conflation of the strategic and the operational. “If your financial institution decides you need ITM, or a new LOS, hopefully that’s a management initiative or a vendor management project; not your strategy.” Unexpectedly, this brought to mind a brief time in my life when basketball seemed like a reasonable career path for me (spoiler alert: it was not).

Many people consider Michael Jordan to be the greatest basketball player of all time. His drive and his discipline allowed him to develop and perfect an astonishing array of basketball tools and techniques--the operations of professional basketball. Jordan’s operational game changed the sport, wowed us and won championships, yet it does not describe Jordan’s strategy.

Jordan’s strategy was to win decisively every possible play and, ultimately, every possible game by understanding and controlling the “data” of each interaction. This “data” was not limited to Jordan’s own operational tool kit, it included each of his team members’ tool kits and, together, the dynamic interplay against each of the Bulls’ rivals. (Who could forget the early, epic battles against the Detroit Pistons!)

Operational and tactical decisions are part of every battle, but as Ungerland explains, “… being a bright spot of economic innovation…requires a real strategy of controlling data within your core, using your community’s data and its commercial power and value to serve as an epicenter of the local economy”.

Jordan’s strategy to own all possible data allowed the Bulls to deploy a unique operational and tactical game plan. The result was utter domination. The Bulls became the gravitational center of the sporting world and, twenty years later, Jordan remains an icon for the ages. This is made most evident by googling Trash Talking Michael Jordan where all 8+ million results show, time and again, how one comment would be the catalyst for him to elevate his game and win – regardless of how impossible the odds were.

Be like Mike. A strategy to own and control data within your core will elevate your game. It will allow you to anticipate opportunity and deliver operational and tactical solutions currently hidden in platforms and channels, silos of disjointed data. Your core becomes the gravitational center of economic recovery and health. Post-COVID America is waiting for you to change the financial game plan.

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