Strategic Planning – Part 3

Sports and Business Have Many Similarities

Coaches wouldn’t dream of starting a season without one. Athletes would be lost without one. Fans would not enjoy the season as much if their team doesn’t follow one.  The media would have a heyday with teams that would not discuss a form of one. Quarterbacks would look like scared rabbits without reading one.

What is it? Well to put it as simply… “it” is a game plan. A game plan that is built upon a foundation of “we can win, and become the champs if we follow what we have planned for.” I refer to not just having one game plan, but employing several game plans throughout the season. A game plan is a great tool to have, and an even greater asset if followed and updated regularly.

During my younger years as an All-American athlete, I listened to my coaches talk about being the best, the champs, whether in our conference, the state, or even the country. They would even go as far as setting individual goals for certain team categories. I would listen with great interest to the goals they had established for the team, and how we would work together to achieve those goals. The coaches, our management team, would spend countless hours reviewing the skills and talents of the players, and lining up the right mix of skills with the positions. They would review films over and over and over, then come up with what they felt as a long-term strategic plan for the season. Then each week they would review the scouting reports and come up with a tactical plan for each opponent.

I learned several influential lessons from these “sculptors of boys and men”. These lessons have stayed with me for decades. They were built upon the foundation my parents established for me at an even younger age. One of the more powerful lessons is the concept of coming up with a solid, workable plan; following it; and then being flexible enough to revise it as you go.

Each new season of competition brought with it the notion of being classified as the very best. My old college friend and teammate Steve Young was a master of the game. He was always an inspiration to the team. He was a natural leader and was the perfect example of always striving to be the very best he could. I will be forever grateful to Steve for his competitive nature, as well as his example. He would study the game plan relentlessly at the beginning of the season. He would follow it because he trusted in those that had done their homework and put together a plan of action. And then he would update the plan every week as he faced a new opponent. If he thought changes needed to occur he would speak his mind—keeping the team as his number one focus and not himself.

Steve followed the team game plan and inspired those around him to stretch themselves and to reach for new plateaus. If someone was struggling he would lift them up to his level of performance. He was a fierce competitor on the field, and still is a fierce competitor off the field, both in sports and in business.

As a youth it didn’t matter if it was football, basketball, baseball or track, I couldn’t wait to get the season started. I would work my tail off trying to make my skills and talents pay off while in the heat of battle.

When I advanced to the collegiate ranks, even more challenging circumstances would present themselves and I had to figure out how to make my skills and talents work for the betterment of the team, as well as for myself.

I enjoyed a very successful career as an athlete. I was named All-American in three sports. I won three state championships. I broke five records in track and field—some that stood for 20 years. I have played on a national championship team. I had a chance to play professional ball in two sports. And through it all, I can say that it was the planning that made much of these things come to pass. Not just planning, but following the plan and making changes along the way.

Think about it for a minute…a pro football team does not stay with the same game plan week in, week out. The game plan must be modified and improved upon as a new opponent is faced, or as a back up athlete comes into the game to take over for an injured teammate. However the original plan is not tossed out, it is simply revised and improved upon.

So it is with developing a game plan for business. The original plan is what gets things moving. Markets change. Technology changes. Setbacks, even serious ones happen. New contracts are awarded. New industries are created. Natural disasters occur. Partners go off the deep end and spend wildly. Many things happen in business that you did not plan on, yet seem to crop up anyway. That is life. Yet each of these instances requires a flexible approach, a game plan that can be modified when needed.

Therefore, formulating a strategy is as important in business as it is in sports…

As a young man, I grew up participating in athletics and I really wanted to be the very best at everything I did. This meant focusing on an end result, but having a plan of action to get me there. I had a passion for pushing my mind and body to new levels, and doing my absolute very best to come out the victor. This required a certain game plan that always needed to be updated, tweaked, and often revamped into something entirely different than what was originally planned out. This “game plan” actually made me stay focused when things became a little fuzzy, or even not clear at all.

As an athlete, I participated in four sports: football, baseball, track and basketball. I was very blessed with the physical makeup to excel in these sports and was at the top of my game for many years. The fascinating aspect of putting together a game plan was that although I thought I had it figured out in the beginning, I soon realized that my plan needed to change each week. As I faced new opponents, the coaching staff would prepare a plan of action that was tailored to beating that particular opponent. Which meant that the original game plan at the beginning of the season had to be updated to meet a new set of circumstances head on.

Just as in sports, business is run by a set of plans that needs to be updated and kept alive in order to achieve maximum results. So then, this becomes what I will refer to as the Business Game Plan. This plan of course has to involve the Head Coach, Assistant Coaches, Players, Equipment Managers, Offensive and Defensive Teams, a Special Team, Cheerleaders, the band, the crowd and the media.

If you are not a sports fan–not to worry. All of this will make sense very soon, and hopefully you will understand my madness in developing this section with a sports twist, and learn to have fun with it.

Source: The Business Game Plan, by Brian Hazelgren

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