The famous playbook of Vince Lombardi?the most renowned football coach of all time and a source of inspiration and wisdom for many corporate and political leaders in America?was based on one core idea: that a limited number of simple plays, coupled with intensive training on situational variations, could transform a team. Applied to the world of C-suite executives, Lombardi’s playbook offers a unique window into the underpinnings of leadership.
A leadership playbook is executable, scalable, integrated and robust. A playbook allows you and your team to focus, interpret events and act even in very complex environments. Based on everything I have learned and experienced in leadership, here is my version. I hope you’ll use this as a starting point to develop a playbook of your own.
Section I: Strategy
The first section defines where you want to go?what changes should occur and what you want to stay the same.
Page 1: Problem and Goal Definition Describe on one page the past, the present and the future states to be achieved, why these changes are important, and the key performance indicators that will tell you if they’ve been accomplished.
Page 2: Control and Timing There are always several different workable strategies to achieve a goal, and they are often heavily dependent on timing. If you’re in a hurry and have competitors outflanking you, your strategic options differ tremendously from a situation where you are in control and have plenty of time. The secret to great timing is a combination of perspective and situational awareness.
Page 3: Credibility and Realism In leadership, the messenger is as important as the message. The realism of your point of view, the manner in which you present it, the language you use and your reputation as a leader all come together to support?or degrade?your credibility. I try to emulate the motto of Lord Browne, group chief executive of BP: humanity, humility and humor.
Page 4: Motivation and Belief People may not believe your message or believe only parts of it. Or they may believe your message, but not believe they can do it; or not believe it’s the most important task; or not believe it must be done now. Generating true motivation and belief is one of the most challenging aspects of transformational leadership. But you need only a small group to start with?the core leadership team of your change effort.
Section II: Operations
The key to getting from state A to state B is clarifying the relationship between ends and means. Changing your outcome means changing your level of organizational capability.
Page 1: Requirements and Design Technology leaders are familiar with the power of requirements definition and design. But few leaders define and design the enterprise solution for the problem they face. To achieve organizational transformation, you must sketch a complete design, including the values, people, processes, tools, infrastructure, information and decision-making roles to get the job done. I’ve always found the U.S. Constitution a potent model to emulate.
Page 2: Incentives Employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders don’t change their behavior unless there is an incentive to change. Incentives work when people have stakes?emotional or monetary, tangible or intangible?that are either threatened or enhanced.
Page 3: Speed and Scale Some problems need to be solved on a large scale. In starting up FedEx, Fred Smith recognized that economies of scale had to be reached rapidly to achieve profits. In other situations, a solution will collapse if it is pushed too fast. If you are trying to lead a large-scale change, you must understand how many steps are involved and how fast you will need to scale up. Scaling has a tremendous impact on both resource usage and risk.
Page 4: Disciplined Execution Discipline is the habitual reassessment of how well ideas match reality, whether your goals are being achieved and whether operations are being carried out. The tools of discipline?performance support, quality control, training and especially communication?must be deployed in proportion to the problem you face.
Section III: Capital
Strategy defines where you would like to go, and operations are designed to get you there. But it is your capital that determines what is truly possible. Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, put it well: “If you can gather good people and money, you can do anything.”
Page 1: Scarce Resources and Available Assets Economics is based on the notion of scarcity and so is good leadership. Whether it’s people, knowledge, cash, energy or technology, good leaders know what their scarcest assets are. They have a plan for how to alleviate scarcity, if possible, to manage resources carefully and get a high return on them.
Page 2: Accumulation Whether you create or acquire, an accumulation strategy determines the total availability of your resources, your degree of leverage and your level of control. Assessing the trade-offs of leverage, efficiency and control is one of the ultimate judgments for a leader.
Page 3: Allocation Because there are limits on capital, every leader must set priorities. Make certain you have a system for budgeting and investment management so that you can make the right allocations up front, adapt to changing conditions and situations responsively, and look for the highest return on scarce resources.
Page 4: Harvesting and Development Some resources are static and nonrenewable. They are simply consumed. Other resources are alive and walk out of the office door every night. Managing resources requires both harvesting and development strategies. You must achieve growth and sustainability at the same time, while capturing the maximum amount of value.
The best leaders understand how the three sections of the playbook interrelate. Do you have the resources and capabilities to solve the problems you’ve defined? Have you chosen the right problems? Given your operational capabilities, is the scale of your solution feasible?
Recently I was fascinated to see a TV interviewer ask Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, “If you only had three measures to use for defining your success as a leader, what would they be?” Welch quickly answered customer satisfaction (corresponding to Section I of the playbook), employee satisfaction (Section II) and cash flow (Section III). Like any great leader, he had his playbook at his fingertips.