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The Puck Stops Here

The Puck Stops Here The Puck Stops Here Sports metaphors abound in business. You develop a game plan, kick off the new program, and hope for a home run or touchdown. If the plan is not universally hailed, you might denigrate critics as Monday morning quarterbacks, or, if they're especially powerful, you could either do an end run around them or touch base with some of the more influential pacesetters to persuade them to join your team. If no one sidelines you, you have to implement the game plan, which is likely to require quite a bit of teambuilding and coaching. However, if you don't have deep bench strength and you're in danger of striking out or fumbling, you might need to call in a pinch hitter or someone who can take the ball and run with it. The very last thing you want is for some competitor to come out of left field and go toe to toe with you before you can field your best players. But if it happens, you have to be ready to play hardball. As might be expected, quite a lot of these sports metaphors—at least those used by American business people—come from football and baseball. Lately, however, ice hockey metaphors are in vogue. This might be because, even if you can find a level playing field (and you can't), it's treacherously slippery these days. Competition has become brutal, play is faster and more ferocious than ever, and it's all too easy to loose your balance. Just like ice hockey. Then there's the fact that hockey great Wayne Gretzky has uttered a few remarks that have resounded in the business community. For example, his observation that "You miss 100% of the shots you never take" found an appreciative audience, even among people who might have thought 'The Great One" was Jackie Gleason. But the Gretzky bon mot that has captivated the business community is: "I don't skate to where the puck is, I skate to where it's going to be." This pithy observation captures the essence of business strategy today. In an era of rapid, radical change, cast-in-stone five-, 10-, or 20-year game plans are pointless. Instead, the object of long-term planning is to build an organization that is always poised and ready to snatch up fleeting opportunities. As columnist Rick Oliver says, there's no such thing as a "sustainable competitive advantage" any more; the most anyone can hope for is a "temporary competitive advantage." And in our cover story, Philip Evans suggests that in times of rapid transition, strategy should be regarded as direction, not solution. "Strategy," Evans says, "becomes a matter of positioning one's business to exploit them, of placing repeated bets on an outcome whose logic is a mere tendency." In other words, we have to play this fast-paced game of business as Gretzky played hockey. In less than a blink of an eye, we must compute where the puck is likely to end up, based on very subtle indicators related to its current position, and be ready to capture it when it gets there. Pamela Goett Editor & Publisher 2|November/December 2000 PUBLISHER'S NOTE http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Business Strategy Emerald Publishing

The Puck Stops Here

Journal of Business Strategy , Volume 21 (6): 1 – Jun 1, 2000

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0275-6668
DOI
10.1108/eb040118
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The Puck Stops Here Sports metaphors abound in business. You develop a game plan, kick off the new program, and hope for a home run or touchdown. If the plan is not universally hailed, you might denigrate critics as Monday morning quarterbacks, or, if they're especially powerful, you could either do an end run around them or touch base with some of the more influential pacesetters to persuade them to join your team. If no one sidelines you, you have to implement the game plan, which is likely to require quite a bit of teambuilding and coaching. However, if you don't have deep bench strength and you're in danger of striking out or fumbling, you might need to call in a pinch hitter or someone who can take the ball and run with it. The very last thing you want is for some competitor to come out of left field and go toe to toe with you before you can field your best players. But if it happens, you have to be ready to play hardball. As might be expected, quite a lot of these sports metaphors—at least those used by American business people—come from football and baseball. Lately, however, ice hockey metaphors are in vogue. This might be because, even if you can find a level playing field (and you can't), it's treacherously slippery these days. Competition has become brutal, play is faster and more ferocious than ever, and it's all too easy to loose your balance. Just like ice hockey. Then there's the fact that hockey great Wayne Gretzky has uttered a few remarks that have resounded in the business community. For example, his observation that "You miss 100% of the shots you never take" found an appreciative audience, even among people who might have thought 'The Great One" was Jackie Gleason. But the Gretzky bon mot that has captivated the business community is: "I don't skate to where the puck is, I skate to where it's going to be." This pithy observation captures the essence of business strategy today. In an era of rapid, radical change, cast-in-stone five-, 10-, or 20-year game plans are pointless. Instead, the object of long-term planning is to build an organization that is always poised and ready to snatch up fleeting opportunities. As columnist Rick Oliver says, there's no such thing as a "sustainable competitive advantage" any more; the most anyone can hope for is a "temporary competitive advantage." And in our cover story, Philip Evans suggests that in times of rapid transition, strategy should be regarded as direction, not solution. "Strategy," Evans says, "becomes a matter of positioning one's business to exploit them, of placing repeated bets on an outcome whose logic is a mere tendency." In other words, we have to play this fast-paced game of business as Gretzky played hockey. In less than a blink of an eye, we must compute where the puck is likely to end up, based on very subtle indicators related to its current position, and be ready to capture it when it gets there. Pamela Goett Editor & Publisher 2|November/December 2000 PUBLISHER'S NOTE

Journal

Journal of Business StrategyEmerald Publishing

Published: Jun 1, 2000

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