Leadership on the Hot Fly

If you have been keeping track of the US Open, you know that the extreme heat and humidity has affected the players.  It has also tested the leadership and decision making skills of the tournament organizers as they try to keep the players safe, the competition fair, and the paying customers and TV partners happy.  But, there is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with, too.

The red tape comes from the rules of different stakeholder organizations: WTA (which runs the women’s tour), ATP (which runs the men’s tour), ITF (which runs the Grand Slam tournaments, of which the US Open is one of 4), and the USTA (which runs the US Open).  What could possibly go wrong?

The WTA established a heat policy in 1992 (a 10-minute break between the 2nd and 3rd sets if the heat and humidity reach certain levels).  The USTA has in the past issued heat guidelines for individual tournaments. Neither the ATP nor the ITF have any policies that speak to excessive heat.  However, the Australian Open (another Grand Slam tournament overseen by the ITF) does have one (though not without its critics).  During the US Open, the WTA policy has been implemented and the USTA decided to implement a modified version for the men where there is an optional (at the players’ discretion) 10 minute break between the 3rd and 4th sets.

The USTA showed some leadership to protect the male players and have not received much blow-back for it, other than, “What took you so long?”  Was it the BEST decision?  Maybe, or maybe not—I’m not a physiologist.  But, they made it before someone was seriously injured (or worse).

What I find most interesting here is that there are four stakeholders in running the tournament, but they have not gotten around to coming up with a standard policy to handle something that they have already had to address and is likely to come up again (both the US and Australian Opens are played in the summer).  One can easily imagine other areas where they should be working together (e.g., drug testing and match fixing).

Now, think about your organization.  Are your operational policies consistent across business units/locations where they need to be and also flexible to account for local realities?  Is it clear who makes on-the-spot decisions when these policies do not cover a particular situation?

It is impossible to come up with a policy for every possible scenario.  But, smart organizations develop structures where decision making responsibilities are clear and different parts of the organization can learn from others.  This leads to quicker decision making and smarter operations.

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