Recently, I was able to check off another item on my bucket list. My wonderful wife, Jen, purchased a ticket for me to attend an NCAA Men’s Basketball Sweet 16 game to watch my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers. Although the outcome was not what I had hoped for, I had an incredible experience. As I watched, I was reminded of the importance of a game plan.
Effectiveness and success in most endeavors requires thoughtful preparation and thorough planning. Sometimes success and effectiveness may happen unintentionally or accidentally, but most often success comes to those who have a carefully thought out game plan. A game plan is a strategy or a series of steps that a team must follow in order to accomplish its goals. A coaching staff will prepare a particular strategy for a game, based on the respective strengths and weaknesses of their own team as well as the opposing team. The game plan takes into consideration many factors like team injuries, game situations, and statistical analysis. Study winning teams and you will see that they plan to win. Study ineffective or losing teams and you will see that they often had no game plan, or a poor plan at best. As Alan Lakein said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
I have worked in organizational leadership for over 25 years. One common thread that I have seen in my personal leadership is that the most effective and impactful years of my leadership (regardless of the size or location of the organization), was when we had a carefully thought out game plan. In the least effective years, the game plan was neither deliberate nor intentional or we had no plan at all. Sometimes I was just too lazy to do the work required to plan. Occasionally, our teams were so busy doing the day-to-day requirements of the job (what we call “pay the rent” at InitiativeOne) that we failed to take the time necessary to purposefully plan. Sometimes to save time, we simply repeated the previous year or season’s game plan without making adjustments and improvements specifically for the new season.
The same applies for leaders and organizations with whom I have consulted and coached over the years. Sadly, far too many leaders and organizations have NO game plan at all and somehow expect different results for their efforts. However, the old leadership axiom persists, “If I always do what I have always done, I will always get what I have always gotten.” And, many of us have heard that the definition of insanity is “to do the same things over and over and expect different results,” nonetheless many choose to do nothing differently.
Here’s the point. Most organizations and leaders can reach their desired results and experience greater levels of effectiveness with a carefully thought out game plan that is implemented and adjusted as needed. Here are some questions to consider as you prepare your game plan:
Have we clearly defined the why of what we are doing? Understanding the why of what you are doing will assist in creating a narrative to inspire interest, involvement and investment of people. People are motivated and captivated by a stimulating why.
Do we know what it is that we will do and what we will not do? This will help in clarifying and understanding your purpose and flesh out values.
Do we know how we are going to do what we are going to do? This will provide clarity and the framework for strategies and systems and establishing critical goals.
One of the mistakes that leaders and teams make is that they don’t spend adequate time putting together a strategic game plan. Therefore, many try to do too much, or try to do too much too soon, do little, do little with no impact, or they simply repeat the same things over and over and expect different results. A carefully thought out game plan increases the probability success. As the writer of Proverbs said, “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run” (Proverbs 21:5, The Message).