Why Winning is So Hard
If you donâ€™t think so, just ask the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, whogot spanked by my Broncos on this seasonâ€™s NFL opener. Â Of course, they didnâ€™t plan to lose that game. In fact, they had every intention of winning. But sometimes things donâ€™t go according to plan.
And if you think itâ€™s hard to win in sports, itâ€™s even harder to win in business. The playing field isnâ€™t nearly as level, and competitors donâ€™t have to give the ball back once they score. In either arena, however, winning often depends a lot more on what we do (or donâ€™t do) rather than the other teamâ€™s actions.
Football teams enjoy one major advantage over corporations because they have a built-in definition of winning. They know, with absolute clarity, that in order to win they must have more points on the board than the other team when the clock runs out. In business, we donâ€™t often take the time to define winning with anything approaching that level of clarity. And when we do, obstacles still arise that cause us to lose our focus on winning. For example:
If you ask me, thought bubbles â€“ our internal attitudes, beliefs and assumptions about how the world works â€“ constitute the biggest detriment to winning. Few things will cause us to take our eye off the ball like these kinds of internal messages:
â€¢ This plan will magically happen now that we wrote it down.
â€¢ I know we said this project wasnâ€™t important any more, but Iâ€™ll keep working on it a little longerâ€¦just in case.
â€¢ I know I should communicate more about how we will win, but I just donâ€™t have the time.
â€¢ If I keep running fast enough, things will work out and weâ€™ll get there.
Failure to adjust
I constantly talk about the need to pause for a moment and assess whether what weâ€™re doing to reach our destination still makes sense. Football teams have a built-in pause, called halftime, where coaches and players get a chance to regroup, assess whatâ€™s working and what isnâ€™t, and make adjustments. They even get quick pauses (timeouts) during the game to do the same thing in emergency situations.
In business, we have to create our own halftimes to regroup and reassess. It wasnâ€™t too long ago that we could ride out a strategic plan for one, three or even five years without any major changes. These days, if youâ€™re not checking in with your plan at least once a quarter, you may be giving your team the ball on its own one-yard line with no time-outs and less than a minute to go.
It never ceases to amaze me how many seasoned business leaders expect their plans to unfold without any fumbles, interceptions or blocked punts. Here again, football has a major advantage. Throughout the game, performance feedback is instantaneous and ongoing. You know exactly how many yards you gained or lost at the end of each play. The score is constantly updated. And when the final whistle blows, everyone knows who won and who lost.
In business, not so much. Sometimes we donâ€™t get real feedback on cost reduction efforts, new sales initiatives or market share gains for weeks or even months. Which makes it a lot easier to deny, disbelieve and rationalize away the data when in finally arrives. (We can thank our brains for that one!) All of which contributes to the fantasy that our plan will pull through if we just wish hard enough or run faster in place than we already are.
Iâ€™m not suggesting that we totally scrap the plan at the first minor stumble. But to win in todayâ€™s hyper-fast markets, we have to be willing to learn (and unlearn) along the way. We need to develop the skill of strategic agility â€“ moving fast with focus and flexibility while keeping our eye on the goal line. Most important, we need to adjust our plan and strategy as necessary as we move forward.
To help achieve these goals, I recommend a process called â€œbreakthrough modeling.â€ In this technique, you get clear on the destination and then set different levels of interim goals for getting there, making it easier to adjust the plan as circumstances dictate.
Stay tuned next week for a discussion on this valuable technique. In the meantime, go Broncos!
Call to action: Define what winning looks like for your organization. Then make sure everyone knows it.
image credit: star award image from bigstock
Wait! Before you go.
Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:
- Daily — RSS Feed — Email — Twitter — Facebook — Linkedin Today
- Weekly — Email Newsletter — Free Magazine — Linkedin Group
Holly is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. (www.TheHumanFactor.biz) and is a highly sought after and acclaimed speaker, business consultant, and author. Her unique approach to creating strategic agility, helping others go slow to go fast, will change your thinking.
NEVER MISS ANOTHER NEWSLETTER!
One of the most important driving factors for any successful business is a high-performing team. Having people working for you…Read More