It’s Time to Play Offense

It’s Time to Play Offense

With the Super Bowl not far behind us and discussions already underway for what to expect next season, we’ve been surrounded by talk of the teams, coaches, and strategies employed. Oftentimes, we talk about the team with the strongest offense. After all, the team with the strongest offense will likely move the ball down the field more, put the most points on the board, and probably win the game. All of this talk inspired me to think about the alignment between this time-honored game and running our businesses. I started to wonder – Isn’t it time to start playing more offense and less defense?

There’s no doubt about it – from a business perspective, we’ve been playing defense for the past two years. We really had no choice. We had never before experienced a global pandemic and its far-reaching ramifications, so we had to adapt and make moves based on what was thrown at us (often with a moment’s notice). There was no process, no procedure. There was no playbook. It was all defense.

While we are still in the midst of constant disruptions, the key difference now is that we’ve learned a thing or two along the way. We saw what worked and what didn’t. We saw the innovations and consequences. We can recall how we defensively maneuvered through the challenges of a global pandemic, school and office closures, technological advancements (and threats), the Great Resignation, and supply chain shortages. We learned procedures and processes that allowed us to work effectively and continue to give value to clients, even when we couldn’t be face-to-face.

What strikes me is that we never would have known about the possibilities and opportunities to conduct business in other ways had we not experienced the need to do so firsthand. Now, it’s time to adjust to this new way of life. Essentially, we now have a playbook with clearly established rules and policies, or “plays,” and it is time to start using it to be more offensive.

Offense is Problem Solving – from Airlines to Supply Chain Shortages and Everything in Between

At its foundation,the  offense is all about problem-solving. We will always have external factors that disrupt business operations and impact organizations (we just happened to see a lot of them all at once). But instead of waiting to see what will happen and react to it, we’re going to shift our mindsets to anticipate what will happen and plan for it. We’re going to ask ourselves, “Now what?” One great example of this is when flights were being canceled in record numbers. There were understaffed airlines, severe weather issues, and a number of other external factors affecting the industry. So, how did they play offense?

Airlines began adding additional flights as soon as they could. Internally, they asked staff to work overtime and heightened sanitizing processes to keep as many staff members and passengers healthy, and as many flights as possible active. They don’t know when the next variant or the next snowstorm will hit. None of us do. The best any of us can do is prepare by taking action now and not waiting until after the disruptor.

Another scenario of which we are nearly all feeling the impacts are the supply chain breakdowns occurring worldwide. There are long wait times, increased costs of shipping and logistics, warehousing problems, inflation, and other continued supply challenges that are driving higher demand for products. Dealing with this offensively means less responding and more repositioning.

It’s about taking a step back and thinking strategically. Can you lower the price slightly to attract customers and in turn, drive higher volume? How can you drive growth? Can you redo your pricing strategy? You may also have an opportunity to reposition your products. For example, you may want to reposition the in-demand, and short-supplied, products to increase the value proposition of other products that are currently in less demand (and lining your shelves).

A Playbook is Nothing without the Team

You simply cannot play offense alone. So much of it comes down to the coaches, or leaders, effectively sharing the playbook with the team and asking for their feedback. After all, they’re the ones pushing down the field each day. Questions should be powerful, insightful, and thought-provoking. Some questions to consider with the team include:

  • What have we learned?
  • What new ways are we doing things that could work elsewhere operationally?
  • What advantages are we seeing? What disadvantages?
  • How can we get out of the situation?
  • How can we think about this differently?
  • What could we do differently?
  • What is in our control? What is not?

Encouraging, motivating, and inspiring your team is the key to success. Engaging them collaboratively allows them to test options, experience small wins, and move the ball down the field. Remember not every throw needs to be 50 yards. Similarly, not every business decision needs to come with the biggest payday. Ten yards at a time will get you down the field and closer to your goal. You just need the next first down to stay in the game. And you will get it when you play offensively as a team.

Being offensive means not merely adjusting on a whim because we didn’t know what to expect (that’s all defense). Rather, it means learning not just how to survive but to thrive through disruption. And while the players may be fatigued, it is up to the coaches, or leaders, to find ways to empower and support them as they push forward – whether it’s on a field, in a conference room, or on a Zoom call. Simply, it’s time to double down on a new strategy because the best defense is, in fact, a strong offense.

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February 28, 2022

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