Carl Mays: Everyone must execute the plan

Nov. 21, 2013 @ 11:06 PM

“We had a good game plan, but we just failed to execute.” Sports coaches have uttered these words many times. What they are saying is, “On paper, the strategy or blueprint we designed in order to win the game was solid and workable, but we just didn’t do what we intended to do.”

Not executing the game plan isn’t relegated to athletics. It happens in business, personal, family, community and educational endeavors. And, one person involved in the plan can make a world of difference.

For example, British Railways was looking for a way to test locomotive windshields when they heard about an unusual test cannon at British Airways. Airways used the cannon to fire dead birds at great force into the windshields of passenger jets to insure designs and materials were up to par. When asked, Airways gladly let Railways borrow it. Just before the test was run, Railways sent someone out to acquire a dead chicken for ammunition. The cannon was then loaded, aimed and fired at the windshield.

The bird smashed through the windshield, broke the engineer’s chair and made a large dent in the rear wall. Railways was furious. They phoned Airways and demanded an explanation. Airways checked out the complete story. They then called Railways back and said, “One problem. Next time someone is sent to get a chicken, tell the person to make sure it is not frozen.”

One person with one responsibility can mess up a plan. The manner in which each person executes his or her assignment in the plan can either help lead the plan – and the team – to experience success or failure.

There is a medieval morality tale about how important the performance of one person can be. The tale is about a knight who returned to the castle at twilight in a state of total disarray. With dented armor, helmet falling off, face bloody, horse crippled, and the knight himself about to tumble off his limping horse, he caught the attention of the lord of the castle.

The castle lord asked, “What hath befallen thee, Sir Knight?” The knight responded, “Oh, Sire, I have been laboring in your service, robbing and pillaging your enemies in the west.” The lord exclaimed, “You what? I don’t have any enemies in the west!” After a pause, the knight replied, “You do now!”

I was triggered to write today about how one person on a team can make such a huge difference in a plan after the leader of an organization told me how everyone in his group did the right thing at the right time, except for one person. The execution of everyone in the group could have led to a great win for the group, but the failure of this one person to execute the plan led to a disappointing outcome.

The comments of the leader reminded me of the question I have asked members of many sports teams, companies and other organizations to ask of themselves: “What kind of team would this team be, if everyone thought, acted, performed, just like me?”

I usually follow that question by reminding the group that the wisdom of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament is powerful: “One standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Everyone working together willingly for a common purpose can lead to the accomplishment of seemingly impossible tasks.

© 2013 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. The free mentoring and self-help site is based on his "A Strategy For Winning" book and program. E-mail or view