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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Business success requires a game plan, June 16, 2006, 9C.

Watch any pre-game commentary during football season and you will see and hear sports broadcasters discuss the keys to victory for each team.  The comparable strengths and weaknesses of each team are analyzed and the game plans for victory are described.  As the games play out, each team is typically evaluated on how well it executed its game plan and how well it reacted and adapted to the play of its opponents.

The development of a game plan comes from a process of analysis, goal setting, introspection, comparison, evaluation, and forecasting.  Before each game, coaches take stock of their team’s talent and make note of injuries and player health.  They also learn about the health and abilities of the upcoming opponent.  Coaches look over game film, of their team and the opponent’s, to discover strengths that might be used and weaknesses that might be exploited.  Once a proper assessment has been made about their team’s abilities and how those abilities match up against the abilities of the opponent, then a coaching staff can develop a feasible game plan for victory.

The processes for developing winning game plans for sports teams are similar to developing winning strategies for success in the business world.  Strategies are linked to goals.  Goals for sports teams are usually pretty clear—to win the game or competition.  Goals in business organizations can sometimes be less defined, conflicting, contradictory, or confused.  When identifiable goals do exist, it is necessary to develop a “strategy” to attain those goals.  Strategy describes the methods, actions, and procedures needed reach the goals.

Once goals have been defined and agreed upon, managers should engage in deep introspection.  The strengths and weaknesses of the organization should be studied.  Strengths are those characteristics or abilities that the organization possesses that can give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace and might include experience, production efficiency, exclusive information, market share, customer service, or distribution methods.   The absence of these same characteristics might be weaknesses for a company.  Weaknesses are those things that could be exploited by competitors or that might hinder goal attainment. 

In addition to introspection, managers must also look outside the organization to identify possible opportunities and threats.  Opportunities are things that exist in the organization’s environment that could benefit the company.  Threats are those things that might harm the company.  Changing consumer demand, demographics, legislation, environmental factors, technology, competition, and economic factors might all be viewed as opportunities or threats depending on their effect on the company.  Opportunities and threats could exist as short-term or long-term and could have immediate or future influences on the organization.  Managers must be able to see current opportunities and threats and be able to forecast and predict future influences.

Only after strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are identified and analyzed, should organizational leaders begin developing strategies for success in the marketplace.   Just as coaches spend a great amount of time and effort developing game plans for success, so too should organizational managers and leaders.

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2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved