"Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results; the process rather than the prize."
— Bill Walsh, three time Super Bowl-winning head coach
It's Super Bowl season! Time to get out the chips, grab the remote, plop on the couch, and watch some excellent... team communication? Yes, you heard me right. It takes two great teams to make it to the Super Bowl but it takes only one team with excellent communication to win that Lombardi Trophy.
Follow these steps to get your team communicating like Super Bowl champions:
1. Understand the Objective
In football, the head coach runs communication on the field. He's responsible for explaining the objectives, standards, and expectations of the game. He needs to encourage and inspire as well as discipline and instruct. It's up to the head coach to organize and create a vision for his team to execute. Just as in football, a successful project team needs a leader who can provide a vision and set expectations for the project.
As important as it is for the team leader to clearly communicate objectives and expectations, it's just as important for the team to effectively listen. Team players also need to communicate their own feelings and concerns to their team leader so everyone is on the same page.
2. Set a Strategy
Developing a strategy is the first step to achieving the team's objective. In football, the head coach and assistant coaches evaluate the competition along with their own team's strengths before coming up with a strategy. Once a plan is in place, it's shared with the team. If there's an injured player, the coach needs to factor that into the plan by moving positions around.
Just like football, it's important for team leaders to evaluate their resources before they design the playbook. For example, if a team member has a prior commitment on the day of a presentation, they must communicate that to their team leader. The team leader then needs to factor that into their strategy by shifting the presentation date or choosing a new presenter, and communicating the change to the necessary people. Without this upfront communication, the whole strategy will be ineffective. Having a client communication plan in place is also crucial, to ensure that, once your team are on the same page, that this can be effectively relayed to the customer, and vice versa.
3. Run the Play
With the plan set — it's now time to execute. In football, there are several key players involved in running a winning play. Let's look at a common running play: a draw. This play is designed to trick the defense into thinking the offense is about to run a pass play by having the offensive linemen act as if they're going to protect the quarterback in the pocket. Instead, the quarterback drops back, turns, and hands the ball to his running back. Although it sounds straightforward, this play often falls apart due to poor communication. If the running back isn't aware of the play, he won't be ready to receive the hand-off from the quarterback.
The important tip here is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. The team needs to not only work together, but also understand the game plan and what their role entails. One way to ensure this accountability is to assign a particular task to each individual and come up with a deadline for when each task needs to be completed. Then, host regular progress meetings to make sure everyone is on track and answer any questions they may have. It's important to maintain communication throughout the entire project. Any gaps in communication could result in someone dropping the ball.
4. Evaluate the Strategy
At this point, the question is simple: are we moving forward? In football, moving the ball ten yards forward results in a first down. First down keeps the team on the field, as long as they keep moving forward and achieving first downs. Penalties and incomplete throws are examples of instances where the team loses yards. When this occurs, the strategy needs to change. The head coach will look at where the problems occurred and think of a different plan. This is also a time when the coach will evaluate his team and see what changes he needs to make in the lineup.
When evaluating a project strategy, it's important to not only look at the plan but also the team players. Is someone slacking on a particular task? Maybe they don't have as much experience, so it takes them longer to complete their task than the rest of the team? These types of observations should be made as early as possible in order to fine-tune the project plan and responsibilities.
Woo hoo! By this point, the vision and goals shared in the beginning have been executed and achieved through effective communication and teamwork. It's important to remember exactly what worked and what didn't when this step is reached. The plans may be different, but the communication can be just as successful.
Now let's go watch some football!