Friday, February 24, 2012

Business is like a game of soccer

Running business is like a game of soccer!

There is a captain, a coach and multiple players trying to achieve the same goal – ‘Goal’. You know a bit about your opponents but you don’t know it all. You anticipate their actions and try to plan your game accordingly. You either play to your strengths or try defending your weaknesses.

Business is pretty much like that only. There is a business head, who is the captain of the team, assisted by business consultants, who act as coach, watching match from outside and trying to help the team with their inputs in whatever limited interactions they have. While other players in the team, some senior some junior, play the game (mostly) as instructed to achieve the results through the strategy formulated by captain and the coach.

Every player is strategically placed in the field (i.e. in different functions) to derive maximum benefits in the game. Each player performs his job and passes it onto the next player for their contributions. Sometimes the ball comes back to the same player again and again, for fresh contributions every time. Sometimes they get tackled and sometimes the pass doesn’t go through properly but that is all part of the game – players try to minimise it but still bound to happen at times.

The only difference in business is that there exists a second ball- call it the ‘Black Ball’. This is the ball of blames (powered by bureaucracy and office politics), where everybody tries to get rid of the ball ASAP. In effect, parallel running game with Black Ball turns into a game of musical chairs, with smaller sub-teams competing against each other, where the one handling the ball when music stops is accused of the all the wrongs that happened during the game. Everybody knows it is an epidemic but people enjoy playing this game much more than the original soccer that they were supposed to play. To the extent that even sometimes they end up losing the game to weaker teams.

Coming back to the original game, as I was saying every individual/group of people has his/their role defined in the field. For example, there are forwards expected to turn every opportunity into goal (marketing team), there are half-forwards to create higher opportunities for forwards (e.g. product development or innovation teams), midfielders to ensure the strength at the centre (core strength area – could be manufacturing), half-backs to cut the opponent from reaching my D (other core functions – could be procurement, supply chain etc.) and finally the backs to provide the final layer of protection (generally Finance). The captain is out there playing in one of the positions, may or may not be the most critical position, while the coach is standing out and watching the players play. Further, depending on the strengths of individual players, different teams adopt different strategies with specialised positions like hole players, box-to-box midfielders, holding midfielders, sweepers etc.

In every game, there would a larger dependence on one or multiple of the players but other players are also required to play an acceptable level of game. To start with, it is important to have the right coach and the right captain to plan the right strategy for the game and equally important to have right players in the right positions – mind it great forwards player will not be able to do justice to his potential if asked to play in half back.

Looking at very basics of the game, it is most crucial for any team to do proper passing of the ball- to the right players – to show just the right amount of aggression at right positions and to keep an eye on the opponent’s moves. Businesses also require people to perform their individual responsibilities with proper ownership while also coordinating with related functions to enable better outputs. Teams running in silos hardly do any good to the business, while passing on the ball to wrong players also reduces the efficiency of the teams. Just imagine a midfielder playing brilliantly, tackled the opponent and carried the ball near opponents goal post but did not pass the ball to forward and just left the ball in D and came back – although the player individually might have shown sparks of brilliance but the team overall could not benefit from his moves. Had he passed on the ball to the forward at the right time, it could have turned out as a valuable score for the team.

The only worse I can think of is, if the captain is clueless about how to play the game. He, along with the coach, is supposed to set the rules of the game and bring a discipline in the team, failing which the team is on its own and the lack of coordination would be pretty evident (like the case described above). The team would not know whether to play attacking or defensive, what combinations to play, moves to make etc etc

So the rule is simple-
In order to win a game of soccer- get the right players, right captain and right coach- get your playing strategy right, communicate the strategy to team and just play by the rules (execute the strategy)
In order to run a business- get the right employees, right business head and right coach (typically Board of Governors or Chief Management Committees) – get your business strategy right – communicate the strategy to team and just play by the rules (execute the strategy)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Choose to be an Optimist

If there is one most important thing I have learnt in my life, it is indeed the Power of Positive Thinking.
Almost a decade back, my father gave a book to me and forced me to read through every page of it (otherwise I am lazy enough not to read anything) but I must acknowledge that my attitude towards life changed on that particular day. I learnt to live.

But as most of the other things go, it is much difficult to practice Positive Thinking than to preach it. And I have experienced it a number of times in my short life. It is much convenient to choose the option of pessimism over optimism - Human Nature!

Ask it for yourself - What do you choose in your day-to-day life
Do you whine every morning for the work you do at office or do you think of the opportunities to learn new things?
Do you crib about your boss's attitude or do you believe that you control your life?
Do you shout at your subordinates just for the heck of it or do you take time to teach them the right ways?
Do you question your existence from time to time or do you believe the dreams you saw in your school/college days can still be achieved?
... and the list can go on forever..
You got the drift! It is not your fault that you think that ways, this is just how our brain/heart function.
Most of the times, we do not even realize that the choice was there and our subconscious makes the default choice.

Remember the sequence from the Bollywood movie '3 Idiots' where Rancho (Aamir) describes the watchmen incident to Raju (Sharman) and Farhan (Madhavan), and establishes how much we fear and how easily we can fool ourselves out of it (just by saying the words 'Aal izz well', in that case). Well that was not just a stunt in the movie, it actually works.

Clearly the first step is to acknowledge the fact that you always have a choice. Next you have to start recognizing the available choices each time, which believe me - is not going to be as easy as it may sound. 80% of the total problem is inability to identify and recognize the options. But once you know your choices, you know you can choose one and you feel empowered. Believe me, nobody in this will ever let you make decisions unless you yourself are ready to make them.

As Uncle Ben (from Spiderman) would have said "With great power comes great responsibility". While choosing the positive choice would take you places, a conscious negative choice could make things worse. Choose to be an Optimist.

Eventually, when practiced for long, your subconscious also gets trained to make right choices! 
Simple funda to make your life beautiful! Just choose to be an Optimist!

"Ever wondered the secret behind smiles of successful people"

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