It’s playoff season in the NBA so there’s no better time for an analogy between NBA coaching and corporate strategic planning. Reflecting on the season and anticipating the final playoff games, it begs the question; what if NBA teams were run like many businesses are? Would their losses quickly mount? Would the coach soon be out of a job? Hate to say it but in many cases the answer is yes.
Successful NBA teams aren’t run the way many businesses are.
Where many companies view strategic planning as an annual affair (is it time to start planning for 2012 yet?), an effective coach sets an overarching strategic plan for the season, then develops individual detailed game plans, prepares the team members for their roles, and holds the team accountable for following through on a game-by-game, play-by-play basis. During the game, a coach takes time out (literally) to offer corrections and keep everyone operating according to the game plan. If the competition makes an unexpected move, the coach again reassesses the plan and may make changes on the fly (another time out) to keep the team organized around the end goal of winning. The coach constantly gives feedback and communicates key messages to keep the team on task.
Now imagine applying the approach of an NBA coach to the task of corporate strategic planning: focusing on short-term and long-term goals, offering corrections, re-grouping, and re-formulating as needed, all the while offering support and guidance to the players in the company. You can see how the “game,” so to speak, will change.
Break your corporate strategic planning activity into seasons, games, quarters and time outs.
Effective strategic planning is nimble and dynamic, like an exciting playoff game. If you’re trying to lead your company with a strategic plan that is weighty and cumbersome, you’ll have a hard time accomplishing milestone goals and keeping your team focused. Instead, prioritize the strategic elements, define success for each goal, and create a plan that allows you to measure and keep track of each accomplishment in smaller increments. For example, a restructured plan could:
- Allow your operations to focus on accomplishing the top 20% of your identified priorities
- Build in time to reevaluate priorities quarterly and break down bigger objectives into short-term goals to help keep your team motivated
- Take a holistic approach that evaluates competitor and peer performance behavior to help keep your organization functioning systematically in the context of the overall business picture
- Define priorities, which you communicate clearly to your team so they understand their expected actions and results
- Offer meaningful rewards to team members who achieve results
Even focused executives lose track of the big picture when strategic planning happens just once a year. Instead, like NBA teams preparing to meet their next rivals, corporate leaders are wise to consider a more frequent schedule of strategic planning and of course, to put the governance in place to ensure the plan is executed accordingly. Perhaps a schedule of quarterly refreshments, annual updates, and three-year rewrites will better serve your organization? Give it a try.