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Operational Playbook

The NFL season is officially underway!

America's favorite sport kicked-off in the beginning of September, thus effectively driving down all Sunday afternoon productivity. But with all of this football consistently on the TV, we at Mainspring Solutions have been thinking about the parallels that can be drawn between what takes place on the gridiron, and what occurs within your enterprise.

If you're unfamiliar with the game of football, the quarterback is the most important position on the team. They orchestrate the offense, make checks and audibles when things look like they're going wrong, and put others in a position to succeed. We would like to look at operational managers in this instance as the quarterback of their team.

Another important part of being the "quarterback" is to know and utilize your playbook to its fullest potential. Managers should think of their daily routine as their playbook. This is all of the tools and resources in your arsenal to help your team achieve your goals.

The Offense

Now as we know, when a team in primarily any given sport is on offense, the goal is to score or put points on the scoreboard. As a manager, you need to think of what you do on a daily basis to drive operations forward to meet your goals. It all starts with the huddle. This is where the quarterback relays the play or strategy with the rest of their team so they are all clear on their responsibilities. As a manager, are you having a daily or weekly huddle with your team? Touching base consistently with team members has shown over various studies to be incredibly helpful for increases in productivity and team cohesiveness.

One your huddle is over, the team moves towards the line of scrimmage to set up in their positions for the play. However, occasionally the quarterback will see that the defense is doing something unexpected. In this case, the quarterback will call an "audible", in which he will properly change the plan to better adjust for what is happening in front of them. As a manager, how flexible are you with changing strategic initiatives when plans begin to go awry? We have all been in this position before. Throughout the course of a project, plan, or even in daily operations, something goes wrong which calls for immediate adaptation to prevent everything from slowing to a halt. As a manager, your set of "audibles" should be pre-planned and memorized so when something goes wrong, you are prepared to make the proper changes to adjust (similar to a quarterback).

The Defense

Now for the other side of the ball. The defense in your company should be viewed of all of the preventive and adaptive measures taken both internally and externally.

As far as externally goes, your defense can be viewed as acting against moves made by your competition in an effort to stay ahead of the curve, and any research done that looks into innovation or modernization of business practices to prevent obsoleteness.

Internally, your defense is your plan to prevent problems from occurring to keep things running smoothly. Oftentimes in football, the defense will blitz the offense, meaning they will send more defenders towards the ball than usually, as opposed to keeping them in coverage. This is regarded as a riskier move, but typically has a bigger payoff than if the defense decided to play it safe. A practice example of this in operations is something known as a "kaizen blitz". This is a phrase often used in lean six sigma practices, and means a rapid and intentional effort to fix a problem or implement a new system. Kaizen means "continual improvement" in Japanese, but "blitz" connotes that this improvement will be done immediately.

This is something we at Mainspring Solutions have suggested for many of our clients and speak about in our Lean Operations Workshop. If you are interested in learning more about having a Lean Operations workshop at your headquarters, check out this link:

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