Platt’s Perspective: March Madness Strategy

As we settle into March Madness mode and cozy into our recliners to watch college basketball, I wondered how odd it would be to change the rules: no time-outs during the game.

Imagine each team member showing up for the game and setting his own strategy, without checking in with his teammates as the game progressed.

What would be the result if there were no opportunities to review plans, respond to challenges, injuries or changes in the lineup? What if there were no timeouts to decide as a group how to adjust when the opponent changes strategy?

After the opening tip-off, it would be up to the individual players to figure out what the team approach should be and what they should do to win the game.

You can easily see that the coordinated effort that defines the game of basketball could quickly descend into chaos as the team approach becomes a group of individualized efforts with no coordination. No matter how good or how experienced the players, the cohesive team would devolve into anarchy.

Many firms unwittingly operate under this “No Time-Outs” rule. They set the direction, announce it (maybe), hit the court, and as time goes on, it is up to each team member to assess and change course when necessary.

When individual efforts are valued over team strategy, everyone is busy running, blocking and pivoting according to their own interpretations

What if we could re-introduce the original rules of basketball time-outs to firm managers, and set it up so that the team uses the time to reassess and re-strategize as conditions change? What if the leaders of the firm could execute the strategy of the firm, huddle together, make corrections and execute the updated plan again with the benefit of these pauses in play? How much energy could be saved if they stop the day-to-day activities – “making the doughnuts” as consultant David Maister says – and pull back momentarily to course-correct? How much more progress could be made if firms could harness the benefits of a “huddle” and apply it to the ultimate success of their firm?

Thankfully, mechanisms are available that provide the same benefits that coaches receive from pre-game strategy, huddles during time-outs and after each quarter, and post-game film reviews. Partner retreats offer firm leaders the structure to assess, evaluate and make changes. It’s as important to huddle throughout the year as it is for a basketball team to huddle during breaks.

Business conditions change too quickly to allow the team strategy to descend into anarchy. Firms that regularly work on their business ultimately have a strong advantage over the competition and will be better able to capitalize on opportunities.

So let’s ask for a time-out. Let’s plan how we’re going to make significant forward progress – and take advantage of a firm retreat. Now back to the brackets. . .

Mike Platt is a principal with the Platt Group and can be reached at