Sandy's Corner

Life & Business Always Come Down to Just Two Things – Blocking & Tackling

When Vince Lombardi took the helm of the Green Bay Packers in 1959, the team had won just one game the year before. Over the next eight years, the Packers assembled six division titles, five NFL championships, two Super Bowls (the first and second ever played) and amassed an overall record of 98-30-4. It wasn’t great strategy or a team full of high-profile players or even a playbook with hundreds of complex play schemes that achieved this success but rather a leader and a team relentlessly focused on the basics of blocking and tackling. As memorialized by Coach Lombardi, “Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.” In his book That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory, John Eisenberg chronicles that:

(Coach Lombardi’s) playbook would be staggeringly simple, one-fourth the size of Scooter’s, totaling around forty plays. And the plays were as basic as white bread – runs off tackle, up the middle, and around end, passes to receivers of the middle, toward the sideline, and out of the backfield. The alignment wouldn’t change from play to play…. “If you block well, execute, and eliminate mistakes, this is all you need,” Lombardi said. “It doesn’t matter that the other team knows what is coming.”

Coach Lombardi ensured winning via a constancy of purpose on executing the core skills. In practice after practice and game after game his team was built around perfectly executing the blocking and tackling. As a result, the Packers proved that in life and business if you focus on the basics you will succeed as they achieved win after win over supposedly “more superior” teams with abundant strategies and marque players. Unfortunately, many companies today in the age of sound bites, tweets, and selfies have either forgotten how to block and tackle or have just dismissed its importance.

What are the fundamental activities that are performed within your business day in and day out that make or break your team’s ability to win or lose? Are you focused on these repetitive, basic skills? For the industry in which Medata works (medical bill review), the basics are boiled down to the tracking and implementation of: state and federal medical fee schedules and their rules; correct coding initiatives; seamless electronic data interchange with networks/partners; accurate and timely reporting, etc. Sure, focusing on nothing but sizzling marketing programs and fancy demo products are great crowd pleasers, but just like the Hail Mary pass they are short-lived crowd pleasers that cannot (will not) lead to consistent success unless the basic functions have been unflinchingly and repetitively practiced and executed first. They are not the sexiest or prettiest functions and they take a lot of dedicated hard work, but they are the core of any successful team and do yield success.

For example, between July 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014, there were 128 fee schedule rate updates (one new rate release every 2.20 business days). By repetitively focusing on the blocking and tackling, Medata’s average days to deliver rate was 26.28 days per rate release. Additionally, over the exact same time, there were 106 fee schedule rule updates (one new rule release every 2.66 business days) with an average days to deliver rate of 33.14 days per rule release. But speed without quality is of little value to customers. A few of the direct indications of the quality of a fee schedule release are the number of product support tickets received, the backlog of tickets maintained, and the turnaround time (TAT) of the reported issues. Medata’s product support team opens an average of 33 fee schedule tickets per month with less than one-fifth (six) of the tickets requiring a software change.

Coach Lombardi believed that, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” When was the last time you asked yourself, “How well is my team doing at our blocking and tackling?” or “How well are my business partners doing at their blocking and tackling?” When it comes to your medical bill review, are the basics being treated as more important than the promises and marketing? Are all your state and federal fee schedule and rules updates being routinely and timely tracked, loaded, and processed? Are your business partners as focused on you as they are themselves? If not, why?

Focusing on the blocking and tackling is hard work, but as the Coach concluded: “(The) dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”