Integrating Football into Organizational Structure
Integrating Football into Organizational Structure
Organizational structures seem to be getting more and more complicated. Every time I read the marketplace section of a newspaper, I see another job title that I have never seen before. The titles of Learning Officer, Knowledge Officer, and Creative Officer are examples of titles that have made their way into modern organizational structures. I do not question the need for these roles in organizations, but I do question the inconsistent application of terminology being used. As organizations continue to create roles that are unique to their organization, various inefficiencies continue to mount.
And how do we measure organizational performance? Is it possible to measure how organizations perform in multiple areas? Is there an organizational structure that enhances the ability to measure organizational performance against these areas? I believe there is, and I think the answer lies in football.
The typical football team performs very well. They have a head coach who is responsible for the overall team. The offensive coordinator oversees the offense and the offensive position coaches, the defensive coordinator oversees the defense and the defensive position coaches, and the special teams coordinator oversees the transitional areas of the game.
I propose that we take the top organizational leader, whether it is the CEO, the President, the General Manager whatever the title and make them the Head Coach. The Head Coach would oversee all aspects of the organization, just as he or she would in football. The Head Coach in football is ultimately measured by wins and losses. You play to win the game, right? Credit to Herm Edwards there. The business translation of wins and losses would be in how the organization (the team) performed against the competition in certain metrics profitability and market share to name a couple.
In football, the offense is comprised of the quarterback, running backs, linemen, and receivers. They are responsible for scoring points. In an organizational sense, scoring points is analogous to making money. The traditional departments of Production/Manufacturing, Sales, and Marketing would translate into the organization's offense. I submit that organizations eliminate as many needless layers of management as they can, and replace them with an Offensive Coordinator, as they do in football. The Offensive Coordinator would oversee the traditional departments that are money-makers (mentioned above), and only utilize position coaches (additional supervisors) as needed. It may very well be that the Sales Department may need its own lead person (like a Quarterback's Coach in football), but maybe not. Many times in football, the Offensive Coordinator also functions as the Quarterbacks Coach. This dual role maximizes the knowledge of this person, the organizational efficiency, and the speed of communication. The organization can get more done in less time. The organization can also maximize the talent of its people, and internally develop its future leaders. The Offensive Coordinator would be measured by how many points their team scores - in an organizational sense, how much money they make.
Now for the defense. In football, the defense includes the line, linebackers, and defensive backs. They are responsible for keeping the opponent from scoring points. In an organizational sense, this is competitive positioning. The traditional departments of Finance/Accounting, Human Resources, and Legal/Regulatory would translate into the organization's defense. Again, organizations could eliminate many unneeded layers of management with the adoption of a Defensive Coordinator. If the organization needs more supervisory staff, like a person dedicated solely to Human Resources, the Defensive Coordinator would make that decision, and hire that person. The Defensive Coordinator would be measured by how many points they don't allow the other team to score in an organizational sense, how much market share you keep, or don't lose.
There is one more area to cover in football, the special teams. In football, the special teams encompass the people involved in kicking, punting, extra points, and field goals. Special teams are responsible for transitioning the game from offense to defense in the most efficient manner possible. In an organizational sense, transitioning from offense to defense is analogous to organizational support. The traditional departments of Information Systems, Customer Service, and Administrative Support would translate into the organization's special teams. The Special Teams Coordinator would oversee these traditional organizational departments, and hire additional supervisory staff only as needed. This Special Teams Coordinator would be measured by how well they transition in an organizational sense, by the starting position/baseline their offense and defense experiences.
So why would we entertain the thought of integrating football into organizational structure? What advantages would be realized?
1.Having a Common Purpose and Clear Expectations. Team-based structures operate better. Titles and roles remain consistent. Everyone is on the same page, and speaks the same language. Why are we here? To win the game. It's that simple.
2.Maximizing Efficiency and Effectiveness. Communication is exact and actions are precise because there aren't unnecessary layers of people. Your supervisor will not sit in an office and generate reports they will work with you, side-by-side, to maximize individual and team performance.
3.Having High Accountability. Every role is critical. Every day is important. Every minute is utilized. If not, you lose.
Imagine if your organization functioned this way.
John Patterson, JD, MBA, is a Professor in the College of Business with Bellevue University. He is the Program Director for the Master of Science in Organizational Performance Degree Program. John can be reached at email@example.com.