Having observed many global and startup organizations struggle with the definition, application, and execution of strategy, I decided to do something I vowed to never do: compare business to sports.
Let's start by assuming that strategy is defined as the game plan that provides a team direction on how to play and achieve their goal, and execution is the specific moves the team plays during the game. Using this example as the foundation, the following are key rules that will help your team strategize and play a successful game.
What game are you playing?
Is your company operating with a clearly defined business strategy that has been shared with the team? Imagine Duke or USC playing a championship game without a game plan. It's imperative, no matter the size or stage of your company, to ensure it has a clearly articulated purpose. The strategy must be clear and frequently communicated so that everyone playing on the team understands what's expected of them and they can connect to the bigger picture. The lack of a clearly articulated and executed strategy can have many unintended consequences, such as a directionless team that creates their own game plan and plays their own game.
Put the right players in the right positions.
Once you've established your strategy, ensure your players are in the correct positions. Each player needs to have the competency to meet the expectations set for his or her position on the team to be successful. Recognize and reward players who deliver, coach and train the players who show potential, and be courageous enough to remove those who don't or can't play.
Make sure you understand your position on the team.
Knowing what position you play on the team, whether you're a goal-keeper or a center-forward, and what part of the field you need to cover is vital. A team can't work effectively without each player understanding their role or job description, and clearly defined expectations that can be measured for performance. It's the coach or manager’s responsibility to ensure that each team member understands his or her position on the team and executes accordingly.
How you play the game matters as much as winning the game.
It's the coach and manager's responsibility to direct and inspire the team so that each player reaches his or her potential. With clearly defined positions for every player on the team, and a guiding purpose, you have provided your team with the key tools to motivate them to play their best. And while one of the key metrics of success for every company is to make money, and the objective of almost every game is to win, how you do this shows your consumers and fans the very character of your company. The way your company is run is reflected in the training time and direction that is invested in the team.
Train your team to win by engaging their heads and their hearts.
How you lead and operate your business is on display for the world, and in today's transparent and instant-media society, training your team to work with integrity and operate with company values is key to sustainability and growth. Employees become loyal and engaged, and consumers become fans, when the spirit and character of the company is clear. Loyalty stems from commitment to training and ensuring your strategy and values are shared and understood by every member of your team.
Stop talking about playing a good game and go play one.
In business and in sports, there is too much time spent philosophizing and theorizing about how to execute a plan or play the game. The talkers are typically the ones who sound as though they're experienced, but have rarely done the job or played in the position they're pontificating about. If the talkers put as much time into actually doing as they do in talking, the company might be more successful. It's time to stop talking about the game and start playing it.
Actions speak louder than words.
When I complain about work and its challenges, my wife often reminds me, "it's called work for a reason." It takes determination and perseverance to stay the course and execute a plan. Every company needs a clear strategy that the right teams can execute, and when all’s said and done, execution is key. This in turn reminds me of one of my favorite mantras: "GSD". It's time to Get Stuff Done.
Want to play smarter? Sign up for Fast Company's daily and weekly Co.Lead newsletter.
Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.
[Image: Flickr user Tony Case]