The NFL consists of 32 teams. Each team opens up summer training camp with 80 players. Then each team roster is decreased to 53 players during the season. However, only 46 players ‘dress’ each week to potentially play 25+ different positions. Rosters are dynamic and can change throughout the season.
NFL teams use a variety of methods and tools to ultimately field a team each week including: the college draft; trades; free agency; practice squad; depth charts; etc. Make the right succession planning moves and they could be Super Bowl Champions. Make the wrong moves and forget about the playoffs or winning many games.
Here are five great reminders, from this past NFL season, to check your succession planning efforts against:
- Successfully forecast future needs. Based on the 2013 NFL season, a balanced offense (running and passing) and strong defense continues to win championships. The elite teams are multi-dimensional and select players to complement this strategy.
During the next 4-6 years, does your organization have clarity on the skills, knowledge and competencies it needs to beat the competition? Are they the same and/or different than what you have today?
- Develop a detailed depth chart. Some NFL teams had very thin (weak) depth charts. There were names on the depth chart as ‘back-ups’, but the same few names appeared over and over. In addition, these ‘back-ups’ received minimal practice time and development. The result – many players were ‘not ready for prime time’ and on game day the team’s performance suffered.
Is there depth in your current talent pool? Is your organization properly investing in player development – both short and long term?
- Plan for the unexpected. Several teams lost key players to injuries this year – for example their quarterbacks. A team like Philadelphia was much better prepared for this talent loss than the Green Bay team this past year.
Have you taken time to plan for the unexpected retirements? Sickness? High potential employees leaving?
- Fit matters. The player who can run the fastest, lift the most weight, or jump the highest may not be the best ‘fit’ to your team. Great NFL teams always have ‘intangible qualities’ like teamwork, organizational pride, and work effort.
Does your organization’s on-going evaluation of talent balance “‘what people achieve” with “how they achieve it”? Are values-based behaviors key criteria in your succession planning?
- Coaches must adjust too. Great NFL coaches adjust their game plan based on available talent. It’s frustrating and non-productive to continue running deep pass patterns if the back-up quarterback has a weaker arm than the starter or the backup offensive line can’t hold the defensive rush.
Are your leaders expected to make personal investments (potentially adjusting time, money, people, and expectations) to help succession planning candidates during transitions?