Draft Day: What We Can Learn About Strategic Planning and Architecture

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In the movie Draft Day, Kevin Costner plays the role of Sonny Weaver, the GM of the Cleveland Browns.  After his father and legendary coach of the team passes away, the Browns are in a rebuild and desperate to put together a team that its fans can support and win on the field.  Early on, the team owner threatens to fire Sonny unless he is able to make a big splash in the upcoming draft of new players.  His coaching staff and new head coach have their own requirements for a defensive tackle and running back; two key players desired by the team are expected to be drafted in the first round.  Sonny also has his own agenda, he wants to see a team that he has put together win. It is also clear to Sonny that if he does not make a big trade and take the first overall pick and draft the highly decorated quarterback, Bo, he will be fired.

We see this dilemma unfold constantly in our work and personal lives.  We have some stakeholders that have a certain need and also have a solution of how to achieve it but the expected solution will not meet the needs of others.  At times we are a stakeholder, and at other times we may be the owner of the decision… what are we supposed to do?

As the movie continues, we learn more about the stories, motives and backgrounds of those involved.  Sonny knows that GMs of other teams would not hesitate to offload their garbage on an unsuspecting team and he makes several executive decisions along the way.  This movie does a great job of showing that Sonny is unwilling to sacrifice any requirement and demonstrates exceptional strategic and architecture skills.  Instead of eliminating the non-conforming requirement, he keeps them all at top of mind and pleads with all involved to let him do his job and to follow through with their actions after the draft is completed.  He uses his opposable mind[1] to transcend the conflict to create a win-win situation for all involved:

  1. Create a winning team without sacrificing the future of the franchise
  2. Satisfy the owner in making a big splash
  3. Satisfy his coaching team
  4. Realize the team he has built
  5. Reward those players with heart and true desire to win

Lessons We Can Learn

When dealing with any transformation, any single individual can prevent its success.  The status quo is not acceptable to anyone yet not everyone will agree on what needs to be done.  A committee approach would not work in this context; decisions need to be made quickly and agility is required to obtain and process new information.  If we waited for consensus or majority, the time to make the decision will have expired.

In general, decisions made by a team that is able to transcend conflict are more informed than any single decision maker, but when agility and quick action is required, do we have the trust and confidence to let someone else take the lead?

By answering “No”, we will not embrace change and realize a better outcome but a blanket “Yes” does not guarantee success either.  The person taking the reins needs to show that they can act unselfishly and for the best interest of all involved, they also need skin in the game and have something to lose if the desired outcome is not achieved.  Our trust is not a commodity that can be easily given but we should also not hold it back when we do not necessarily agree with the cause and effect in achieving our goals.


[1] See Roger Martin’s book, The Opposable Mind

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