For those of you that know me, you know that I am a huge fan of the New York football Giants. As I bask in the glory of the greatest Superbowl upset of all times, I can't help but reflect on the amazing transformation that Tom Coughlin engineered over the course of the year.
As the 2006 season ended, the promising Giants finished as a team in decline with players calling out coaches, countless mistakes being made at crucial times, and sub par performances being displayed on a weekly basis. The coach and his young QB were being chased out of town. For some reason, the Giants gave Coach Coughlin one last chance. So how did he respond?
First, he was wise enough and open enough to perform an assessment of the performance of his players, the team as a whole, and most importantly, of himself. He listened to the constructive criticism of his bosses and players and decided to make some changes. What he found was that his vision was not fully understood by all of the players on the team. So he formed a leadership committee made up of various players on the team who could help him clearly communicate the vision. Better yet, he let the players select the leadership team. Since the players participated in forming the leadership team, it gave them a sense of ownership in the process.
During the course of each week, Coughlin and the leadership team would meet and discuss strategy for the upcoming game. The players, highly respected veterans like Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce, would spread the word to the younger players in a language that they could understand. This did a few things. First of all, the leadership team now felt accountable because they were given ownership in the process. In order to clearly communicate to the other players they must fully understand their coach's message. The second thing it did was give the vision creditability since the message was being delivered from highly respected players in the trenches.
Another important thing that Coach Coughlin did was emphasize the importance of every single player's role and how it related to the overall mission of the team. The Giants, unlike the mighty Patriots, were not loaded with superstar talent. Only one player made it to the Pro Bowl this year. They were, however, solid at every phase of the game (offense, defense, special teams). This was due to the fact that everybody knew what their job was and what was expected of them. Backup players prepared as if they were starters. As starters fell to injuries, backups (mostly rookies) stepped in and filled roles without the team missing a beat. There was truly no "I" in team.
So let's summarize. The creation of the leadership team accomplished the following:
- Clear understanding of team's vision
- Participation in overall strategy
- Constant feedback
- Clear communication
- Shared goals
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
If you are trying to transform your IT organization, look at Coach Coughlin's recipe for the 2007 season. If you want people to change, first change yourself. Otherwise, the message you send is everyone needs to change except me. Value every person in your organization and clearly define their role and the importance of it to the organization as a whole. Surround yourself with leaders and change agents and have them spread the vision. Taking that burden solely on your own shoulders is challenging and can be viewed like a dictatorship. And finally, don't listen to the nay sayers who tell you that it can't be done. You can accomplish anything if the whole team is buying into the vision.