Calling an Audible: 3 Tips for Redirecting a Project at the Last Minute

In football, a quarterback has a way of changing plays on the fly when he doesn’t like what the defense offers him—he calls an “audible.” This gives his team the best possible chance to reach their most immediate goal, whether to get a first down or to score. In business, this can occur at any moment during projects, entrepreneurial ventures, or departmental issues. Being able to change your team’s direction at crucial moments is imperative to maintain a smooth, consistent work environment. Check out these three tips to ensure your success when calling an audible.

Assess the Situation
When a project comes to a screeching halt, take a step back and assess the situation. Reestablish your overall goals. If they haven’t changed, ask yourself what has. Identify every issue and how those problems affect your outcome. Map out what has gone right so far in your process. Understanding what you have to work with and issues working against you will help you start thinking of a different play to run that will break through the defense. Remember what legendary Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz said: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” Make sure you have all the information needed so you can respond effectively.

Think of Possible Outcomes
Once you have all of the information available, brainstorm with your team to come up with different solutions—and the consequences of each. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so you can’t assume that changing the plan midway through a project won’t have unforeseen effects. “If we do this, what could happen?” “If we went this direction, would it still lead to our end goal?” One of the biggest problems leaders have is when their organization changes a plan halfway through a project, the change is made rashly—without taking into account all possible outcomes. Combat this by mapping out each solution with possible consequences to be ready to respond in every situation. Remember, without vision, your organization will falter.

Be Decisive, Commit Fully
Once a decision is made, stick to your guns and go full speed ahead. Indecision can be extremely costly in the long run. Be proactively persistent. Not only is it imperative to the overall success of your new plan, but it’s also a necessary stance leaders must take to have full buy-in from the organization. Your team looks to you for guidance and vision, so once you make a decision, display confidence. Take time to communicate your plan with the team and be sure everyone understands their roles in implementing the “audible.” If your team runs the play halfway, you could end up in a worse situation than before the audible was called. New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick once said, “On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” Just like on the football field, if each employee does their part, the organization gives itself the best chance to score.

Stay Cool Under Pressure
Problems will arise. Plans will fail. Goals may not be met. But if you stay focused on your end game and react well to the opposition, you give yourself the best chance to succeed. Remember when faced with an obstacle, assess the situation, make the best decision, and commit fully to the new plan. Staying cool under pressure will help you break through issues and give your team the confidence they need to back you up and work as one unit. Don’t worry—if plans change, just call an audible.

What’s an example of when you have had to change plans on the fly? How did you lead your team to success? Let us know in the comments section below!

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