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How to Effectively Adjust Your Game Plan–Before It’s Too Late

The highly successful know that very small adjustments can have a big impact–if you make them early enough in the game.

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BY Jason Selk - 10 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

"Your game plan is only good for the first six minutes of the game... the rest is about adjustments." -Roy Williams

North Carolina's basketball coach Roy Williams is a modern version of college basketball coaching royalty. Since he took over the team in 2003, North Carolina has won three National Championships, with the latest in 2017. Coach Williams understands and thrives on the ability to adapt in a game.

His team did just that for its title game win against the No. 1 team in the country Gonzaga in 2017. The No. 2 Tarheels gave up 13 early points to Josh Perkins, but after making some halftime adjustments, they held Perkins scoreless in the second half. Williams' team had the mindset and training to be in the position to receive the game plan and then make adjustments for the win.

Adjustments are quicker to happen in sports than in business because there is urgency for everyone involved. The game clock ticks down in everyone's view, and the scoreboard constantly displays the results. The consequences are immediate. Knowing this supplies enough motivation for making adjustments efficiently and swiftly.

In business, there is no game clock. Oftentimes, a false sense of security exists because the product or result is not always immediately evident. The tendency is to think, "We have time to fix this."

The highly successful know that very small adjustments can have a big impact--if you make them early enough in the game. Many people struggle to know when an adjustment is even necessary.

Adjustments are needed when:

  • The competition is improving faster than you.
  • You are not in the lead.
  • Momentum has shifted away from you.

Once it is recognized that an adjustment is needed, the following 3 steps lead to it being implanted effectively:

  1. Decide on Your One Thing. One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to implement too much at one. Doing too much will almost always result in zero sustainable positive change whatsoever. People just flat out can't make focused change on more than one thing at a time. This is the way we are wired, and not respecting this is a losing battle. Never underestimate the impact that one small adjustment might make. To determine your "One Thing," first determine what two or three things you or your team are already doing well. Don't skip this step. Failure to recognize the positive often results in adjustments that are reactive and ineffective. Next, ask yourself, "What is one thing I need to improve?"
  2. Attack, Attack, Attack. Whatever the adjustment, approach it with the "attack" mentality. Move on this action aggressively, and don't second-guess yourself.
  1. Evaluate. In business and in sports, the bottom-line comes down to results. Measurable results. With all adjustments, there must be a unit of measure. If not, it becomes impossible to measure the effectiveness of the change, and future decisions on adjustments become very difficult. Most think there must be some complex system for measuring impact and outcome, and that is just not true. In fact, like with most things, the more simple the better. This is yet another reason for only adjusting one thing at a time--it becomes much more difficult to measure impact when more than one variable is being manipulated at a time.

The highly successful know the necessity of establishing a path, but they are ready to attack needed adjustments. Remember, never underestimate the impact that implementing one small adjustment can make. Don't wait until the forth quarter to make the changes to your game plan necessary for the win.