Yes, I am still basking in the afterglow of a College Football National Championship for my team, THE Ohio State University Buckeyes. As I have contemplated their remarkable success this season, there are many things one could point to as keys to their success. Many of them apply to successful leadership in any setting:
Assemble the Best Team: They won the last three games with a third string quarterback! How deep is your bench?
Hire the Best Coach/Leader: Gotta Love Urban Meyer! His team would do anything for him. Would your team do anything for you?
Strategic Plan: Their playbook was designed to beat the best teams in the country. Is your plan up to your challenges?
Business Plan- Game Planning was impeccable. Opponents were studied, their weaknesses identified, and their strengths too. Plans to neutralize and dismantle opponents were made, communicate and practiced. When it was game time, the team was prepared. How well have you prepared your team for this year’s challenges?
Project Plan- Each game comes down to the outcomes of 100 or so plays. Each play is like an individual project plan. Each is an opportunity to go through the “PDCA” cycle.
- Plan: Every play starts with coaches on both sides, as well as a quarterback on offense and someone who captains the defense making a “read.” They take into account what the situation is. Down and distance, what point they are in the game, what point they are on the field, and the scoreboard. They look at the competitor’s formation, remember the things they saw on film, and determine what they think will work best.
The Play Call-
- Do: Each side calls their play based on what they think the other is going to do given the circumstances at that very moment and for that situation. They break their huddles and approach the line of scrimmage.
- Check: Just before they engage, both sides get one last chance to assess the situation. Is the opponent in the formation they expected, do they have the match-up for which they are hoping? If not, they can make a change by calling an audible, a change in the plan based on something unexpected, or even an audible by design, because the initial formation was to mislead and the audible play was really the plan all along.
- Act: When all is said and done, they still have to run the play and every team member has to perform his task as designed and practiced. Strength, speed, and intelligence still come into play, and that is why assembling the best team and having the best leader to prepare the team mentally and physically cannot be downplayed. Blocks, tackles, ball exchanges, and proper technique must all be employed each and every play to achieve success on that play, in that game, and in the season to take home the ring.
- Results: Every play has a result. Some will be good for your team, some will be bad. Those results are analyzed every play, in real-time by the coaching staff. They are looking for the things that went right in hopes of duplicating them later. They are looking for things that went wrong and sending pictures to players on the field of what to do differently the next time. They are looking for mismatches to exploit, or mismatches to avoid. Every play’s good or bad result is another opportunity to learn, make adjustments and improve. The best teams are usually the ones who make the best mid-game and mid-season adjustments and, thereby, improve execution as the game, and the season goes on
The Next Play-
- PDCA: The Cycle starts again, Plan, Do, Check, Act!
I know there are a lot of other, more sophisticated tools out there for Process Improvement, especially in a Lean Six Sigma “Black” tool “Belt.” There are certainly some projects that go beyond the scope for PDCA, but I have found that PDCA can work in about 80% of the projects I have led. What PI process one chooses is not nearly as important as committing to Process Improvement. Strategic plans, business plans and project plans will not fly on auto pilot. The terrain is unknown and unpredictable. vigilance and constant course correction is required to soar to new heights.
It’s Time for Me to Fly! How about you?