People or Systems Cont. - What’s Your Strategy?
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2ND, 2010
You’ve just become the coach of an expansion team, and you’re talent pool includes cast-offs from the other NFL teams that no one really wants. Included is a quarterback who has never completed more than 50% of his passes and is perhaps known more for his running ability than his passing ability or accuracy.
What do you do? If you’re Bill Walsh, assistant coach for the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, you develop a system that is not dependent on people, but relies on timing, precision passing and a high degree of execution. Virgil Carter, a career 50% completion percentage passer, leads the NFL in passing in 1972 with a 62% completion percentage due to the soon to be dubbed West Coast Offense that Walsh created to take full advantage of his innovative play calling and design. Out of necessity, Walsh engineered a system that would transform the NFL
over the next 30 years.
Walsh’s system helped the Cincinnati Bengals reach the NFL playoffs 3 of the 8 seasons he served as an assistant coach. When Paul Brown [coach of Bengals] retired and shunned Walsh
as his successor, [Note the similarity in this Leadership Lesson
] Walsh became an assistant in San Diego, and then coached two years at Stanford before becoming head coach of one of the doormats of the NFL, the San Francisco 49er’s. From a 2 – 14 record in his first season, he catapulted the team to a Super Bowl victory in just 3 years.
The same is true with your business. Which is more important, people or systems? When Bill Walsh took over the Cincinnati Bengals he created a system built on precision and pin- point accuracy because he didn’t have elite players. His system transformed the NFL into a passing league. He won Super Bowls when he combined his system with great players who fit his system.
Where are you in your business growth? Do you have the right people on the bus? Where is the balance between the right people and the right degree of systemization and structure? McDonald’s and Toyota are just two companies that place high dependency upon systems. No one would argue that their success also came from having highly effective and intelligent leaders.
Your strategy dictates the degree of dependence you place on people and systems. As your company grows market dynamics influence this balance, and there is a critical juncture where internal focus needs to become more outer focused on the market place.
How accurately have you assessed your business? Have you accurately assessed your pool of talent and the dynamics of your market place? There are a predictable set of patterns that most growth companies evolve through. Is your strategy aligned and prepared to meet those challenging circumstances? Do you have the right disciplines in place to avoid being blindsided?
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