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Ken Keller: Winning at anything requires a solid game plan

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: February 5, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 5, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Today is the Super Bowl, the single most watched television event of the year.

This is the wrap-up of a National Football League season, which will put the winners of the American and National conferences in a single game to determine the winner of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The winning team will be remembered as such, and the losing team will be forgotten shortly thereafter, until it wins a Super Bowl.

Who will win? Will it be the New England Patriots or the New York Giants?

The team that wins will do so because it executed the fundamentals of football the entire 60 minutes of the game. This can be measured by the number of mistakes made that the other team converts into points on the scoreboard. How does this happen?

It starts with the team having a goal. Some NFL teams, believe it or not, do not set out to win the Super Bowl. These teams announce they are “rebuilding” or have reached a “plateau.”

Some NFL teams set a goal to make it to the playoffs, while others make it clear that if they do not win the Super Bowl, they will consider the year a failure.

The two teams playing today were focused from the start on their goal: to win the Lombardi trophy. Despite their ups and downs during the season, in spite of injuries and mistakes and losing close games they should have won, neither team lost sight of the ultimate objective.

This fundamental is so basic that it seems almost comical to write, but the reality is, most businesses and many people do not have something as simple as one goal for the year. From the end of last season to today, the general managers and the coaches of these teams were constantly assessing where they were compared to where they needed to be. Personnel, plays, equipment, travel arrangements, medical support, personal support and the like were constantly being scrutinized to see what could be added, eliminated or tweaked to gain a competitive advantage to win the next game.

This fundamentally follows goal-setting by asking the question, “Where are we now?” There are many of these assessments available, including one mentioned last week, which is SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Yet, many businesses do not take the time to analyze where they are. 

Football, like business, is a game of today. It is not a question of asking someone, “What have you done for me lately?” It is more of an issue of, “Can we execute better today in order to win?”

Before a team or individual can execute, it needs to have a goal, knowledge of where it is and a plan.

Football teams have binders filled with plays. Many businesses lack the basic plans needed to operate. It is little wonder so many fail because they lack the basic policies, procedures and programs to succeed.

Doing basic competitive analysis is another fundamental of success. The competition is constantly being looked at in football. In fact, competitive analysis is almost an art in football.

Many businesses choose to ignore their competition completely rather than see what they are doing and learn from them.

This analysis always raises questions about the gaps between who runs onto the playing field. General managers and coaches are always comparing existing players, capabilities and passion to what is required to win.

Football players are young men in the prime of their lives, filled with emotion, strength and ability. All of those positives must be channeled, because most anyone older than playing age has learned through experience how quickly a younger person can be derailed from achieving their potential.

This is another fundamental that helps teams to succeed — allowing people to use their strengths to help the organization.

The quarterback doesn’t play defense and the field goal kicker usually makes a bad quarterback. Football players, like people at work, play best when their strengths are engaged to the fullest.

Vince Lombardi once gave a speech on the subject of winning. In it, he said, “Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization — an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win — to beat the other guy.” 

May the best team win today, and may your business practice the fundamentals better in 2012. 

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at (661) 645-7086 or at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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