The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Buffalo Bills decided to fire their offensive coordinators before the 2009 season. This isn't that uncommon in the National Football League. General Managers, Coordinators, and Head Coaches are paid something in the neighborhood of Russia's Gross National Product to be responsible for getting many millions of dollars worth of assets (players) to perform well enough to fill the stands, sell merchandise, and keep fans interested in the franchise they represent. These are high risk, high reward positions that can earn the incumbents many millions of dollars and the respect of the masses, or a sudden pink slip and a one-way ticket on the next thing smoking.
What is uncommon, however, is firing such high profile/impact personnel in the middle of preseason -- mere weeks before the regular season is to begin. That's exactly what these teams did. Some sportswriters praised the moves. Bucky Brooks said, "The unexpected dismissals of three offensive coordinators on the eve of the regular season has unquestionably rankled the NFL landscape, but the preseason is an evaluation period, and even assistant coaches can't escape the scrutiny of evaluators looking to field winners in 2009."
Winners in 2009, eh? So far, the Buccaneers, Chiefs, and Bills are a combined 1-11. The only win enjoyed by this group of under-achievers came when the Bills defeated the Buccaneers in week 2. In effect, these teams are 0-10 against teams that did not fire their offensive coordinator in the preseason.
My take? Managers are only as good as their last "season." They deserve huge rewards when they succeed, and deserve to get canned when they don't. That said, a change in leadership is not something you can approach on a whim. You can't spend an entire preseason training your team a particular style of play, using a specific leadership style, and making personnel decisions to support those styles, then completely change course when the bright lights of the regular season get turned on. There certainly are examples of mid-season management changes in sports that have worked out swimmingly, don't get me wrong. But often, these in-season moves simply make bad situations worse. Major management changes should only take place, barring blatant misconduct or mutiny, after the conclusion of a season. Preferably, such a move should be made as quickly as possible to maximize the preparation time for the replacement manager going into the following season.
At credit unions, we don't have set seasons. Sure, we have annual and sometimes semi-annual reviews. We host planning sessions with our boards. We have board meetings on at least a quarterly basis. Is that enough? How can you organize your credit union's operations into seasons so you can reward managers who are productively leading your team in the right direction? How can you replace non-performing managers with as little disruption as possible?
Answering these questions properly may be the difference between steering your team in the right direction...and another disappointing season.