What the Scrambling Quarterback Says About Business Planning

The quarterback is the most important player on a football team. Without them, there would be no game and no strategy for winning it. But what does this mean for business planning? The fact that so many companies are struggling to keep up with today’s rapidly changing technologies can have disastrous effects if they don’t follow an effective plan of action instead of hoping that their existing strategies will work out in the end.
Introduction: When you’re looking at your company through a spreadsheet or presentation, do you ever get discouraged by how much time every hour spent just trying to make your numbers add up seems like unnecessary effort? It might seem crazy right now but here’s some advice from someone who has been part of countless teams where we tried to figure out ways around our own problems—in my case as head coach with three different collegiate athletics programs while earning my master’s degree in sports psychology: stop spending hours adding up columns! You’ll find yourself wasting precious energy when all those wasted hours could’ve been used figuring out how to win games and compete for championships.—Coach A

A quarterback is a player in American football who manages the offense during the game. What does a quarterback do? The answer to this question depends on what type of team you are running, but typically they manage the offense and call out plays.

Yesterday, I was ecstatic to see Sometimes You Have to Scramble on my blog feed. Fran Tarkenton, a pro football hall-of-famer who was famed for scrambling as a quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants in the 1970s, wrote the article for smallbizclub.com. Who better to bring up two key points regarding how company plans are really used in the real world? (All of the following are exact excerpts from Fran’s post):

  1. “It’s critical to have a strategy in place.”
  2. “However, being ready to alter and revise your strategy when faced with reality is much more vital.”

This is such an important aspect of company planning that I’m always gathering metaphors to help me communicate it to as many people as possible. It surely echoes President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote:

The plan is pointless, yet it is necessary to plan.

And here’s another famous military quote:

There has never been a combat strategy that has survived the initial confrontation with the enemy.

Fran clarifies:

The offense has a game plan for every snap of a football game. They have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish. However, once the game begins, the defense may be able to sabotage that strategy. When this occurs, the quarterback has a decision to make. He may attempt to run the play as intended and hope that the defense doesn’t punish him. He has the option of abandoning the play, throwing the ball away, or just getting down and moving on to the next one. Alternatively, he may scramble and attempt to find a way to make something happen on that play, even if it’s not as they intended it. The defense may have thrown a wrench in the strategy, but there are still options once you realize what the defense is offering.

And this is precisely how well-executed company planning works. He says that you must have a strategy, but that if things don’t go as planned, you may either adhere to it; or you can give up; or you can…

Adapt the strategy depending on what works and what doesn’t. Examine your current location, your desired destination, and your transportation alternatives. It’s not always a straight path—in a scramble, you may have to go one direction and then another before finding an open path to the goal—but it’s constantly moving.

Right on!

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