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  September 9, 2011
Football is Back...

It’s now the end of summer so that means two things...the kids go back to school and football season begins. 

Now I’ve never been a fantasy football player and in fact, I don’t even know the rules, but I do participate in a friendly NFL football pool where my friends and I attempt to pick the winning teams against the point-spread each week.  The cost for the entire season is menial ($5 per week) and usually I just try to make my money back each season.

It does, however, make watching games I typically have no interest in watching a bit more interesting.

It also gives me reason to listen to the "supposed experts" when selecting my teams each week as I have very little knowledge in most teams and/or players. 

I say "supposed experts" because in reality, no one really knows who will win a particular game (especially against an evening factor like a point spread).  Sure the better teams will generally win more games over the course of a season than lesser teams but one never knows exactly week to week.

This also brings to mind...why is it that some teams are simply better than most of the competition year in and year out?

Unlike college football, each team in the NFL has about the same amount of money to spend on their players and facilities (I’ll talk about the disparity of college athletics in another blog).  So it’s not about money...

Additionally, the worse a team does in one year...the better its draft picks are the following year.  So it’s not about opportunity to get premier players (like it is in Major League Baseball or Premier European football).

The reason, I believe, that certain NFL teams are perennial winners is based on their organization and management.  They simply have a winning philosophy, a more selective eye for selecting talent, better coaching, and are better at  preparing for a game.

This leads players and coaches to know what is expected of them at all times, the creation of game strategies that help to minimize deficiencies and to exploit the weaknesses of opponents, and lots of hard work and practice that helps to forge talent into skills and make very gifted athletes better.

The better prepared player, typically executes better during a game.

There will always be mistakes made along the way, but the quality teams are able to dissect the problem areas and learn from these mistakes so that they are not repeated in the future.

Lastly, the coaching staff knows exactly how to motivate their players in a way that gives the players the respect of being a professional player yet lets them know that they are a part of a larger team that needs individual contributions but also needs team cohesiveness to win.

Those same key attributes that produce perennial winning football teams are also the same characteristics of a quality business. 

A first-rate company starts, first and foremost, with quality leadership.  It is this leadership that sets the tone and direction for the organization.  It is typically a top-down structure but one that also embraces the opinions of others within the organization.        

The key element of an exceptional company is its innate ability to attract and select talented management and employees.  Quality organizations (be it professional football or software design), know that it takes talent and attitude to win. 

Hire people for talent and attitude, and then train for skills.

With the proper management and employees in place, the next key to a successful organization is preparation and training.  Management’s key job responsibility in any organization is to create strategy, communicate that strategy to the rest of the team, and then consistently train their staff to improve their performance and production. 

For example, it should NEVER be the sales manager’s job function to grow sales.  Their primary goal is to grow sales people NOT sales (I attribute this piece of great advice to my friend Jack Daly, who in my opinion is the best sales trainer I’ve ever come to know).

The winning team diligently prepares itself for the game that lay ahead...but the game isn’t won in the locker room...it is won on the field.  Therefore it means nothing to be well prepared but not execute.  Execution is the culmination of preparation.  Even with the best management, the best strategies, the best training, and the best preparation...the game is still won or lost on the field.

Mistakes do happen, sales and customers are lost, there are bugs in the code or flaws in the product design, there are shipments that don’t go out on time or items that are in the system but can’t be located in the warehouse, there are computers that go down and simply bad hires.  It happens.

Even the best companies make mistakes...New Coke...Apple Lisa...ANY first version of a Microsoft product...the Edsel...

Quality companies try to learn from those mistakes and make corrections so that they never happen again.  Great football teams watch and dissect game films in order to discover deficiencies and areas that need improvement.  The best companies are constantly monitoring their performance against key indicators and making improvements within their organization. 

Companies like Dell Computers, Wal-Mart, and Amazon are constantly improving their processes to ensure that problems and costs are reduced and efficiency and productivity are increased.  This attention to problem correction is what makes them leaders in their field.

The competition to win is fiercer than ever as it now comes from every place on earth with those willing to work harder, smarter and for less money than others.  The only hope for a company to succeed is to create a better organization (top to bottom) than the competition, diligently prepare and train, execute on a daily basis, and then make corrections in order to prevent mistakes and increase efficiencies. 

Like a game plan on a chalkboard...the theory is easy...

Execution is hard.  It takes attitude, dedication and a willingness to win.

To some, the efforts are worth the rewards.

Thank you very much for supporting OptiFuse where we wish you the best of luck in building your fantasy team (or company). 

Jim Kalb



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