Category Management:  The BEST Football Team Was Not Even in the Super Bowl

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Actually, I don’t even know their record this year (and that’s part of the point), but the Seattle Seahawks were not in the Super Bowl and here’s why I think they were the best team:

The N.F.L. Had Over 700 Coronavirus Positives. The Seahawks Had None.” was the headline in the NYT  and it’s a fascinating story.  Imagine keeping everyone virus free– and it’s a lot of people – in an environment where physical contact is the main raison d’etre?  It points out that they did it “with innovative thinking, vigilance to protocols and some Pete Carroll-style competition.” And keep in mind that in addition to the most flying miles than every other team, they train not far from Kirkland, Wash., the nation’s first coronavirus “hot spot.”

While they tested extensively and they tracked social distancing using devices called Kinexons (which measured physical distances amongst people), “Seahawks say the toughest part was instilling the mentality to keep it all up — the distancing, the masks, the never-ending takeout.  We needed to recognize the people that might not be on board and meet them where they were and try to bring them along with us and get a real team effort going.”

Public health has always been about Adoption.  The alumni population will remember this slide:Adoption

The measures that were taken during the “Spanish” flu (hand washing, masking and social distancing) are the same measures that we need now and yet, even with increased education and messaging capabilities, our rates of Adoption may actually be lower.  .  We will face the same challenge in getting from vaccines to vaccinations – which is all drive by Adoption.

And by the way, this is not a new problem.  The religious laws related to Kosher, Halal, vegetarianism etc. are all rooted in adoption challenges related to public health.  It was easier to get people to do the right thing if God ordered it.

Remember, all the teams had the same exact access to the same knowledge, science, data and budget.  There were no constraints and yet, different teams ended up with dramatically different results.  And the reason is that the Seahawks knew that the challenge was an Adoption challenge and approached it accordingly:

The whole building was restructured, and there were signals and messages everywhere.

Interaction “was still often virtual. “Trying to see all y’all on one screen, though. Let’s see.” “The head.” It was a big adjustment at first, but Carroll says it also forced them to get creative. “We have a guy that comes to us from the University of Miami. I want to welcome in Greg Olsen.” [laughter]“Coach, thanks so much. So excited to be here.” “Yes.” “We learned — we had to develop our habits, we had to develop our style, the way we entertain our players, with the interactions, with the competitions, all of the things we did to make it thrive.”

This is actually an advisory that we have sent out to our current clients.  We all need to develop the skills and competencies to not just maintain but sustain and grow our organizations virtually because that change is not going away.  Simple tasks like running effective meetings, increasing collaboration, keeping up social interactions etc. virtually are not competencies that we have and we at TMG do not see nearly enough attention being paid to this issue.

The NFL also learned some critical lessons:

“It was not the six feet and the 15 minutes that mattered — it was the context. We saw transmission in what was likely less than seven minutes, in some cases.”

we never had a single documented case of on-field transmission,

And it’s obvious that the Seahawks were so laser focused on Adoption as their biggest challenge:

Ramsden (their COVID response lead) expected to be replaced in his new role by a medical professional. Instead, his bosses asked him to remain in charge because of his ability to genially cajole players, who needed to be prodded to consistently wear their masks and tracking devices.

I could go on and on but I have already exceeded the blog limit.  It always has been and still is about Adoption – just go validate it in the Bible or the Koran.

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Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.

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