Last Sunday, my hometown Seahawks had an uncharacteristic breakdown on the final play of the first half, which nearly cost them a game.
They lined up with 2 seconds left to kick a chip shot field goal and increase their 7-3 lead over the Tennessee Titans. This is about as routine a play in the game as there is, as it’s akin to kicking an Extra Point. There was, however, one major problem. Earlier in the quarter, the Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka was injured making a tackle (or literally getting run over). He had to be taken into the locker room to be examined. NFL teams (unlike in college) don’t have the flexibility of carrying backup kickers on their limited roster. For the Hawks, the duty went to punter Jon Ryan.
The Seahawks did a decent job of getting the ball as close as possible for Ryan to attempt his first ever NFL field goal. As the snap came back, backup holder (and defensive back) Chris Maragos mishandled the low snap, tried to pick it up and run, and in a scene straight out of the Keystone Cops, fumbled the ball forward. The ball was scooped up by a Titans player who raced 90 yards to the end zone for an unbelievable touchdown to take the lead at halftime. The Century Link crowd, the Seahawks, and their coach Pete Carroll were stunned. Fortunately for the home team, they overcame that adversity and pulled out a win. After the game in his press conference, Carroll took the blame. He admitted in retrospect that the decision to put his players in a position to fail was “egregious.” They had not had enough practice time and it was set up for a disaster. In hindsight, he would have simply gone for the touchdown with 2 seconds left.
As a crisis management expert, I look at this play as a microcosm of business (much easier to accomplish because the Seahawks won the game). Carroll did the right thing with his mea culpa and taking responsibility. The interesting thing is a similar situation occurred in a playoff game last year against the Washington Redskins. Even though a kicker getting hurt is pretty unlikely, the need to be completely ready and prepared remains.
Here are some other salient points…
1. NFL teams are always prepared for an injury to their most important player, the quarterback. The likelihood and significance is greater than the kicker. The backup (redundancy) is always ready to go. Business is the same way. You are ready for that fire, windstorm, or earthquake. However, how ready are you for the minor “injury” that could cost you big time? Your injured kicker might be an intruder due to lack of security; a wet floor in the office cafeteria just waiting for someone to slip; or an inefficiency in the production line that sends out a defective product. Are you too focused on the big picture and overlooking the other perils?
2. To make a field goal or extra point in an NFL game, you must have three things work well – the snap, the hold, and the kick. Any one of those things that goes awry will create a problem. The Hawks had a backup plan. They had their punter Jon Ryan ready to kick. Unfortunately, Ryan is the regular holder. Maragos probably takes under 5 snaps a week in practice to prepare for this. The snap was low and mishandled. You undoubtedly have processes that require precision and consistency. What happens if your redundancy isn’t prepared to deal with less than perfect conditions? Are your backups ready to handle a low snap?
3. Can you bounce back? The Seahawks regrouped and were able to respond to adversity. Why? I can’t say with certainty as I wasn’t involved with the play other than screaming from my living room. What I can imagine is that Carroll, as any good CEO or President, took the blame, remained calm, trusted in his management (coaches) and employees (team) and stayed on the plan. What’s your plan in crisis? Do you have one? Is it written, communicated, and practiced? How can you move forward without one?
4. Timing is everything. This calamity happened with a whole second half to play. If it had been the final play of the game, all would have been lost. What if your crisis falls in it’s worst time. For the Seahawks, they lose a game (which in their business is crucial). For you, you might lose your business.
You’re in the “what if” business as an executive. This is a strategy decision. Like Carroll, it’s your responsibility to make sure all the “what ifs” have answers that are clearly communicated and implemented. In the end, you’re the one that faces your board of directors, employees, customers, media, community, and your family.
What are you doing to assure that your team is ready to compete for a championship? This year wasn’t without its adversity and I guarantee next year will give you ample opportunity to overcome adversity. They always do. The better prepared and ready you are to meet hose challenges, the more likely you will be playing for a championship at the end of your “season!”
© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved