Strategic Time-Out!!

Indians have always been cricket-loving people. Even roadside cricket draws attention from a limited audience. Then one 895fa215b79b7bbad67940b1c14fc396needs no explanation as to why IPL has caught the nation by storm!

What actually caught my attention more than cricket initially was the way companies were using it as an opportunity to launch brands, establish brands and re-establish brands. The mobile handset space was probably the most noisy and competitive with newcomers & incumbents apply marketing concepts and marketing strategies – all for one thing: a little attention of the audience.

But then a chance remark from my wife led to a totally different stream of thought.

As we were watching one of those closely fought games, my wife remarked, “I like this phrase strategic time out”. Though it was a pun she was making at her strategy consultant husband – it sparked a series of thinkets!

Why was the word “strategic” used along with the “Timeout” and not anything else at the IPL?  Why not “Game Timeout” or “IPL Timeout” or even just plain “Timeout?”

And what could really be so strategic about a two and half minute timeout – when the game is going on at its full pace?  Can a strategy be actually evolved or even refined by a bunch of people in these few minutes amidst a high pressure game?

If you look at the timeouts in most games – there was the quick huddling of players in the middle where they were to be making and breaking decisions that will supposedly define the course of the game. Did most matches take a different route post the timeout? – a question for which I may have to see number of those matches again.

While whether “Strategic Timeout” helped the cricket teams can be left for later – I feel it leaves a singular strong message for an entrepreneur, small business owner, or a person at the helm of driving a business.  You need to “Timeout” once in a while and think “Strategy”!

Most small business owners complain when they have to stop and take a quick look at themselves and their organization from a fresh perspective. Quite understandable.  Do you think many of those players in the middle would have wanted to take a timeout when their adrenalin surge is highest?

They would want to continue with that one ball or that one hit always believing it could change the course of the game. It is difficult truly in the game of cricket or business to stop and take stock.  But it is required and almost always it is one thing that looks good in hindsight.

When I go around and attend conferences, events and other community get-togethers, what strikes me strongly is that there is a much greater sense of entrepreneurship amongst people, but what hits me even greater is that there are still way too many institutions which have scaled to their full potential. Reasons a plenty! But then I would place my bets on the lack of adequate “strategic timeouts” as the strongest contender in the reason list

While execution & action is the most dominant need of the hour – let us introspect to evaluate if they are alone are enough to push your growth field.

Most often you will s note that if you truly wanted something, you work more than your known capacity and achieve it – what’s the reason? You know clearly what you wanted and hence action / execution happened.

In business as in the game of cricket, dynamics are changing faster than ever making many of your current plans redundant and ineffective. They will no more lead you to the goal that you have chosen.  So re-calibration of your current plan to check if it will take you to your goal and sometimes re-validation of the goal itself is a must.

This then requires us to sit necessarily outside of operations, by taking those needed timeouts, and make them strategic so that the next bout of operations is meaningful, focused and targeted at a clear goal.  It is then important to note that timeouts for strategic discussions and re-thinking are important and essential.

Many of us (entrepreneurs / small business owners) need to stop, take a break and use that opportunity to re-look at some of the basic questions about the business – periodically!  The periodicity depends on the rate of change taking place in the company or similar to that of an IPL match, at a set stage of the game.

Whichever way it is, the “time out” is more important than the questions around when, where and how of the time out. The depth and degree of the ritual itself can vary depending on the stage where the institution is in its evolution, but conducting the meeting will require some predictability, periodicity and discipline.

There may have been nothing “strategic” in the “timeout” at the IPL except that it sounds great and catchy, but in business there is just way too much a rational behind this activity. So instead of asking “What’s strategic about a time out?” I think it is only fair to say “Everything’s strategic about a timeout!”


2 thoughts on “Strategic Time-Out!!

  1. LOL, “strategic timeouts” in cricket are just to allow ads without making the TV audience miss any of the games.

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