When it was announced that Ron Wolf would be helping the New York Jets hire their new general manager I was excited. Here is a football man through and through who knows exactly what it takes to win. Through his history as a road scout in Oakland and then leading the charge in Tampa Bay and Green Bay, he has developed rosters that are contenders. People often criticize his time in Tampa, but they were an expansion team being micro-managed by the owner who fell in love with a coach (John McKay). He moved to Green Bay and not only made them contenders, but he revitalised the whole franchise.
This week I dug out a book I read years ago, maybe around 5-6 years. It's called "The Packer Way: Nine Stepping Stones to Building a Winning Organization". by Ron Wolf. I remember coming away impressed the first time I read that book and on re-reading it, I have even more appreciation and respect for the way he built a franchise that would have a 92-52 record with 2 Super Bowl appearances, 1 Super Bowl win and 6 consecutive seasons with a play-off appearance. So for anyone who hasn't read the book, I thought I'd outline the 9 steps right here:
Step 1: Identify What Needs To Be Fixed.
It sounds simple enough. However this is the most vital step of all. You have to appreciate the areas of your business that need a change. For the Jets, it was identifying that we needed a massive overhaul and we needed help in putting the right people in the right positions to succeed. We brought in Ron as a first step and we're currently looking for a candidate who can come in and revitalise this franchise. Once he is in, he'll need to them identify the areas of the front office that need to be fixed, from the scouting department all the way down.
"We got the Packers started towards the top the same way you can and should begin fixing your business and financial challenges. By doing nothing. Nothing, that is, but watching and studying and talking and analyzing. In my first days with Green Bay, I took no dramatic steps, made no telling decisions, delivered no memorable announcements. I was determined to help turn the Packers into champions, but I wasn't about to undertake this challenge without a carefully conceived plan" - Ron Wolf, The Packer Way, pg 16
Step 2: Hire the Best - Before Anyone Else Does
This is the stage we're currently on. We're looking to hire the best general manager candidate and best head coach candidate before anyone else has the chance. We've been quick out of the blocks with interviews coming in left and right and that's due to their being several attractive vacancies in the league right now. Whether it's a near complete team in San Francisco or an offence that is capable of being elite in Atlanta, we're not the only ones hiring, and if we want the best, we're going to need to act quickly to sign them.
One of John Idzik's worst rumoured traits, was his inability to delegate for fear of not being given credit. You simply have to be able to delegate in a big corporation to ensure success.
"If you're involved in a business of any size, it's obviously impossible and foolish to try and do everything. So your future success becomes inexorably linked to the leaders you hire to function under you. Your strength and will can only achieve so much. Without great complimentary leadership around you, you're leaving yourself vulnerable. Finding and hiring top leaders is an incredibly important process that will give like to everything you want to accomplish" - Ron Wolf, The Packer Way, pg 42
Step 3: Develop an Obsession with Winning Today
At the end of the day, winning comes down to putting a W on the board every single Sunday. However to get to that stage, the winning culture must permeate from every single corner of your organization, whether it's in the lunch room, the draft room or the gym. If you're not giving 100% in the gym or in the film room, you're not going to be able to consistently put a W on the board. We have a big problem in New York with the culture of the Jets, because we haven't won for so long the culture is almost set as a losing one, and accepting that. Unless you change the culture throughout the whole building, you're always going to run into some problems.
When Wolf got to Green Bay, it was the same. Green Bay were sitting at the bottom of their division, attendances were down and fans had accepted that the glory days of Vince Lombardi were gone and they have to accept their new role within the NFL. Installing a winning attitude will be the new GM's priority.
"But winning is more than beating an opponent on the football field. It's an attitude that determines success of failure in every business and in every personal financial decision you face in life. If you don't think you can be the best, if you don't think you have the intelligence, training and confidence to do it right, you'll never give yourself the opportunity to triumph"
Step 4: Play to Your Srengths
Negativity can rip through a franchise and consume it entirely. Focus on the positives and in turn they will destroy the negatives. In this chapter Ron talks about using all your strengths to limit the effect of your weaknesses, how the Packers were able to land one of the finest players to ever play the game in Reggie White when others seemed to be more appealing.
You can certainly attribute this section to both our search for new management and direction, as well as on the players side. Last week NFL listed the available vacancies in order or attractiveness for possible candidates. The Jets came out dead last, below the Falcons, below the Raiders and below the Bears. If you view your situation as a dire one and if you act desperate, you're setting yourself up for failure. You have to look at your vacancy as a hot commodity that everyone wants and explaining that to your candidates is half the battle. We are an attractive proposition. We're in the finest city in the World, with a mountain of salary cap, a loyal fan-base and a top 6 draft selection.
"First you must acknowledge the negatives. Then you must eliminate them, or if that isn't possible, identify positives and begin emphasizing them so strongly that they overwhelm the negatives. That's how you play to your strengths, the essence of the fourth stepping stone"
Step 5: Use the Four C's to Measure Performance
Expect Certain Devotion
Expect Certain Dedication
Expect Certain Work Ethic
Expect Certain Results
Those are Ron Wolf's four C's to success. I'm going to hammer home four C's and an A. The above and accountability. That is a key word that this organization has been missing for far too long. Accountability, accountability and accountability. It goes hand in hand with the four C's, if you don't work at your craft and if you don't provide the results expected, then you are help accountable. For far too long we have had certain people coasting through the system and Terry Bradway comes to mind immediately. I can't comment on his devotion or dedication or even his work ethic, but we can all comment on the results and the lack there of.
We need everyone in this organization to be accountable for their decisions, for their actions and for their results. Only by holding people to a high standard will be truly achieve excellence.
"It was essential that these standards apply to every layer of the Packers, including top management. What was good for my scouts was also good for me and everyone who worked directly under me. There wouldn't be a double standard in my organization. I find double standards abhorrent. They produce ill will and mistrust within the staff and they generate resentment toward management and fellow employees"
Step 6: Making It Work
Everything that we've gone over so far revolves around establishment. Finding what you need to change, finding the people you want to change to it and then getting them within the walls of your franchise. However this may be the most important park of the whole system. Making it work. Now you've established the plan and recognised the people, you now have to implement it into your building. You have to put into practise the ideas that you have developed in your own mind and it can be difficult. You will meet resistance from people who don't want to do it your way, you'll meet roadblocks technically, financially or personally, but in this chapter, Wolf explains that it can be very simple.
"Your system must be well-grounded, it must be proven, it must be easy to comprehend and it must be embraced by all your employees"
Step 7: Keeping It Going
Patience is something we as NFL fans are not too happy to promote. In a World where we'll soon be able to have our Amazon order delivered the same day by air-drone, waiting for results is not always an attractive opposition. However the saying that "Rome wasn't built in a day" is as true today as it ever was. Changing a culture and changing a teams roster almost from top to bottom is going to take time. It's going to take a lot of changes, a lot of trials and some errors along the way. People will become unhappy, frustrated but true leadership is making the decisions that may not be popular initially but contribute to success in the long term. We won't always be able to see the vision and sometimes people will make bad decisions and reference their long term vision, but we as football fans must be patient and eventually it will come together.
"As we examine the major points of the seventh stepping stone - Keeping it Going - that scene in Lambeau (1996 NFC Championship Win) can serve as a constant reminder of how effort and a well-conceived, well-executed business plan are capable of producing beautiful results. Super Bowl appearances, record profits, home-run investments, a spot at the pinnacle of your profession"
Step 8: Handling the Unexpected
This step all comes down to preparation and planning. Wolf uses the opening game of the 1997 season as an example as two of the Packers best players went down injured. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves and cursing the football gods about their terrible luck. They instead went to plan B, the back-up if plan A was to fall. You need to look no further than the 2014 New York Jets as an example of poor preparation and planning. We've gone over it a million times, but the cornerback situation was horribly managed from the start and it resulted in us failing as a defensive unit. It's bad enough that you don't have a plan B, let alone when your plan A is terrible as well.
The way to handling the unexpected? Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Preparation eliminates the "Woe-Is-Me-Disease" because everyone in the organization understands that when a crisis occurs we're ready to deal with it, correct it, and keep going, hopefully without missing a step"
Step 9: Staying on Top
This is something we worry about when we reach the top. Once you have your organization running like a well oiled machine, it's important to maintain it. Maintain the standards and work ethic that got you to the pinnacle and ensure you continue to hold people accountable. Ensure you don't get complacent. Minor set-backs and defeats can't take away the hard work you've put in and the eventual goal that you are working towards.
"To stay on top, raise your standards, what was good enough to propel you to the front isn't good enough anymore to keep you there"