We've all done it.  Blown that early meeting, messed up the first slide of the presentation, gotten off on the wrong foot with someone.  We've all been thrown by that first punch, knocked down by that early surprise, derailed by something.  It doesn't matter.  What does matter is how we recover.

Yesterday, Harvard started The Game by marching down the field and fumbling the ball on Yale's 5 yard line.  The teams traded the ball a couple of times and then Yale scored to go up seven points.  But Harvard didn't falter.  They regained their composure, stuck with their game plan and went on to score the next 45 points.  (As they deserved, being the better team from the better school.)

The lesson is a simple one.  Adjust to surprises and changes as appropriate.

  • If the change has a minor, temporary impact, don't get distracted.
  • If the change has a minor, enduring impact, evolve.
  • If the change has a major, temporary impact, manage it as a incident or crisis and get through it.
  • If the change has a major, enduring impact, hit a re-start button.

Harvard's fumble and Yale's subsequent score were really minor things with temporary impact.  Harvard did not get distracted.  It did not adjust.  It went on to execute it's game plan with the hoped-for results.  So should you.