How Do You Run Your Training Camp?

CHICAGO , August 5, 2013 () – These days, as I spend a little time every day following the news from the training camp of my favorite NFL team, I am struck by the urgency and intensity that team management and coaches exhibit as they make critical personnel and implementation decisions to prepare their teams for the upcoming weekly warfare.

They seek to maintain and build on strengths, shore up and rejuvenate areas of weakness, and discern/interpret/adjust to a changing competitive and regulatory (rules) environment. In some ways it seems that entire business cycles are compressed into the offseason, culminating during training camp during the dog days of summer in preparation for the regular season and the drive for the prize of the Lombardi trophy. It's mind boggling how much “film” of their own and competitors’ performance coaches and players watch, always looking for tendencies, weaknesses or blind spots to exploit.

I see strong parallels to the challenges that have always faced participants in the packaging industry. Do you focus your energy on getting better and better at executing the game plan that got you to where you are, do you tinker around the edges to add new twists and nuances to keep the competition guessing, or do you introduce something so new that your opponents are totally befuddled and have to play big time catch up?

One football commentator I enjoy reading talks about “players, not plays”, by which he means that in the end, all the well designed play books and schemes don’t mean much if players fail to properly execute their roles and lose the one-on-one battles that define the outcome of each play and ultimately each game and season.

Without question, doing really well at what it is you choose to do is crucial to repeatable success. The teams and companies that don’t deliver on the basic promises don’t get to keep doing it the same way for long. Coaches, players, and sometimes teams, are forced to move on, and companies that fail to keep up with the minimum daily requirements in the basics either wither away to the bottom tier or are absorbed by competitors who can bring execution to the required level.

However, this same commentator acknowledges that top-notch execution must take place in the context of a continually changing environment and competitive set. And that’s where plays/schemes/strategies come in. Terrific execution of a technique with decreased relevance for the way the game is played right now will lead to mediocre performance at best. Hence the urgency during training camp (also throughout the season and even during each game) to be able to discern changes, then adapt, adjust and execute different techniques to counter new competitive approaches.

For you NFL junkies, I would be surprised if any team isn’t learning how to run the quarterback “read option” this training camp, if for no other reason than to give their defense time to learn how to defend against it before having to do so in a game that counts.

So, how do you (or your company) run training camp? Do you spend as much time watching “film” of how the market is evolving and how your competition (direct, indirect and tangential) is thinking and behaving as you do reviewing your own performance? You absolutely need to measure how your are doing against standards, goals, etc., but when the market or a competitor makes a disruptive move, the question of whether what you measure and targeted levels are still relevant has to be answered with often uncomfortable objectivity.

Are you intentionally and continuously (no luxury of even a short off-season in the packaging business!) evaluating the relative competitive position of your company in creating disruptive advances? One of the best ways to be able to counter a competitive disruption is to practice disruptive business model thinking by assessing your weak areas and potential modes of attack against those vulnerabilities.

Smart coaches and teams do that all the time, sorting out the highest probability and impact attacks competitors could use and creating approaches to counter or minimize their effects. They then put those schemes in place and train for great execution - with an appropriate sense of urgency.

Smart packaging companies employ this training camp mentality, to both short and long-term benefit.

Timothy Bohrer is the owner of Pac Advantage Consulting:

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