6 Change Management Lessons from the Super Bowl

Are you staring at the “Super Bowl of Change” in your organization? Is it a large change and you’re responsible? Are you expected to be the Driver / Director / Sponsor / Change Agent to make this a success?

If you are, here are 6 Change Management Lessons from the Super Bowl:

1) Spend Time on the Playbook 

What do teams do in preparation for the biggest football game of the year? They have worked through their plans and plays and studied them. They know exactly what they are supposed to do when the play is called. In the middle of a 4th and goal situation is no time to start asking, “Uh, what did you want me to do again?” Come up with your “playbook” of plans and strategies for your program (otherwise known as a program management plan) that are going to get you to your goal. Review them with your team, and ensure everyone knows what they are supposed to be working on and when. Preparation & planning with good documentation in your playbook will get you on the right track.

2) Develop Clear Team Roles

On a football team, everyone has clear roles. Even Heismann Trophy winner (and fellow Texas Aggie) Johnny Manziel flubbed an extra point when he stepped out of his quarterback role and into the kicker role and tried to kick an extra point. Now, they were just having a little fun, but be sure on your team that everyone really knows what role they are supposed to play. Match skills and abilities to the task at hand. Ask the content subject matter expert to design and review solutions. But unless they also have a background in project management, don’t expect that that same person will do a good job at managing the program plan. Make sure all tasks are assigned so nothing falls through the cracks and no one drops a pass.

3) Review the Stats and History

What is your team’s history in playing in the rain / in snow / in a dome stadium / not in a dome stadium? How many times has the team been able to come back from being 10 points down in the first quarter? On your team, you need to know what people on your team have been able to achieve before. The age old mantra of “past performance is the best predictor of future performance” holds true in this situation as well. Know who will be able to perform when the game is on the line.

4) Follow the Other Team

The Super Bowl teams have spent a lot of time analyzing the opposing team and coming up with what they think will be the most effective plays to beat the other team. In your organization, you’re competing with the other programs, initiatives, daily work, etc for people’s time and attention. Know the enemy! Of course, that is a bit of a dramatization, but in practical terms, this means things like – don’t schedule your program’s go-live at the same time as another internal big initiative so that you will be competing for time and attention of sponsors and users. Or if it is an external program that will have an impact on your customers, maybe you need to “beat” another product release. Point is, your program does not exist in a vacuum. Know what else is going on around you and adjust accordingly.

5) Create Excellent Commercials

Everyone knows that watching the commercials during the Super Bowl is almost as popular an activity as the game itself. What’s the lesson here? Have excellent communications and marketing for your change. Develop strategies that are going to get you the time and attention of the people that you need help from to accomplish your change. Create “commercials” for your change and don’t be afraid to make it interesting! You should be highlighting the “flash and sizzle” of your project. I have had many clients that tend to put too much detail into their communications. Remember, it’s not training. There is a time and place for that, but in your communications, you want to grab attention and give them just enough information that they want to know more.

6) Practice, Practice, Practice

Football teams practice their plays over and over. They make adjustments when something is not working and change their regimen and training plans. Same for your change program. Create the training that will be needed and then make sure everyone gets plenty of practice, in as real a setting as possible, for the big day (e.g. the Go-Live date for your new program.)

Following these steps should get your program “playing” like a championship team!

Until next time … wishing you business readiness success!

Kirsten Jordan is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @Kirstenkbdb. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.