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Packer Sweep

prof behind the glass

Are the resources of your business aligned with the opportunities in this ‘new’ market?  In times of crisis you have to go back to the basics.  Find a simple path forward and follow it.

Coach Vince Lombardi exemplified this strategy when he took over the Green Bay Packers football team on February 2, 1959.  At the end of the 1958 season, the Green Bay Packers had the worst record in the NFL winning just one game.  The players were disheartened, the Green Bay community was in an uproar and the financial viability of the team was in serious doubt.  Lombardi started his turnaround by inviting any player who didn’t believe the Packers football team could win to leave the team.  With that clarified, he instituted a simple scheme of plays that he had his players practice endlessly until they were executed consistently and flawlessly.  

Things started slowly, but 1959 was a winning season (7-5).  Then, in 1960, the Green Bay Packers went on to dominate the NFL for the next decade.  Vince Lombardi would become the winningest football coach before his early death to cancer at the age of 57, in 1970.  

At a sports banquet I was lucky enough to sit beside the great American football player Frank Harris.  Although he joined the NFL two years after Lombardi passed away he was still talking about the “Packer Sweep”.  The Packers ran a very straightforward play system which was only four plays with different variations. The “Packer Sweep” made them famous for its consistently flawless execution.   To execute the sweep two linemen would come off the line of scrimmage (an imaginary line separating the two teams) and these players would run downfield blocking the opposing players.  The running back (who carries the football) was simply told to follow these blockers and ‘run for daylight’.  In other words look for the breaks in the opposition’s formation created by the blocking linemen.  Simple, but effective.  Harris stated, ‘everyone knew it was happening , but no one could stop it!’  

Vince Lombardi had taken a losing team back to the core principles of football and taught them to execute them flawlessly.  So as many of you start to re-build your businesses in this post Covid-19 world what does this have to do with you?  There are many stories of companies that have suffered through a massive losing season and come through a crisis to not only survive but thrive.  Whether an unavoidable circumstance or mistakes of their own making, there is one thread that runs through them all that helped pull them back from the brink.  And the answer is “simple”.  Notice I didn’t say ‘easy’.  Making a strategy simple might be the toughest thing you’ll do.  Vince Lombardi toiled endlessly to devise a simple strategy that his team could understand and execute.  Here are a few things that coach Lombardi can teach us about comebacks:

  1. Face your failings:  You must be mature enough and brave enough to face the failings, only then are you ready to re-build.   Lombardi invited any player who didn’t believe in winning to leave the team.
  2. Go back to basics:  In football those basics are blocking and tackling.  It’s imperative that you re-connect your team with your core purpose ….. that competitive advantage that built your company and allowed you to wow your customers.   Build on that! 
  3. Develop a Simple Strategy:   Vince Lombardi ran four plays, albeit with different variations and executed them all extremely well.   Keep your strategy simple and easy to execute.

As you re-build your company / business unit you’ll need to re-build your strategy.  There’s a playbook for that….the Six Pillars of Strategy.   Six simple steps, that keep you focused on answering that most important question of all: Are the resources of our business aligned with the opportunities in this market? 

Watch Cam Tipping present this months’ strategy newsletter from behind the glass.

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