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Lessons learned from the Pats on decision-making

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

For those part of the Patriots Nation, these are times of grief. It is true that any football team reaching the Superbowl  should feel proud of the accomplishment: only 2 teams out of 32 have the opportunity to do it each year. Now, those of us widely called “Pats Fans” had the feeling this year was going to be one for history. The opportunity to have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick  among the ones with more Superbowl wins would have been great for us. As with any situation in life, there comes a time where we need to see past the obvious and analyze further the decisions made. This time I would like to run the similarities in decision making between several decisions made by the Pats during the Superbowl and the decisions made in a business or company.

The first similarity I see is the importance of the decision to be made. Every simple decision a player makes playing at the Superbowl can define the course of the match. The slightest move can turn a play into a false start penalty, which can cause the important loss of yards for the team at fault. In the same way, every decision an employee makes while working will have a significant impact in the company’s results. If an employee decides to oversee a step in a process because s/he does not consider it adds any value without consulting previously, it can end up in having audit findings in the long run.

The second similarity I found is that no matter how much you can practice a sport (or become knowledgeable in a subject matter at work) there will be times in which you will make mistakes, and you need to learn from them. Tom Brady was flagged with intentional grounding and that cost the team 2 points; a play that impacted enormously the end result of the game.  Brady should have known better and made a different decision. Despite the fact that he is considered one of the best players in American Football he did not choose well. Similarly, when an employee in a company decides not to check a purchase order to ensure all products are included, or to bribe a contact in order to gain a competitive edge over a competitor – situations that are widely frowned upon in a company but yet, the pressure made them choose poorly.

The third and last similarity I want to comment on – and the one I consider most important – is the impact decisions have on the rest of the team. If a team player shakes and makes poor decisions, these actions can easily start to undermine the team.  I cannot assure completely that the mistakes made by Brady, Welker or Hernandez ( these last two by dropping balls at the end of fourth quarter) affected the team’s confidence to pursue a miraculous comeback, but they definitely made the team members more nervous at the moment of making key plays.  When a team member starts to make mistakes that affect a team in a company, people may start to see it as lack of teamwork from the one making the mistakes. In this scenario, some could easily start preparing their own agenda without thinking about the impact to the team. The pressure such mistakes cause in a team also affect team’s motivation, therefore affecting the team’s results.

Times of grief, times of sadness for those Pats fans.  Decisions were key in the game and thus everyone of us should learn from that experience and think thoroughly any decision we need to make in our business or company and the impact it may have on others.