The Power of Process Management: Nick Saban and Bill Belichick

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Recently when watching a segment on “60 Minutes,” I heard Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama, discuss process management for managing a collegiate football program.  Establishing a process and having every player buy into and follow that process is the method that Nick Saban credits for creating four college football teams that have won four BCS National Championships.

Sabin applies the same principles of process management to himself. He follows a very rigid, thorough process of evaluating and recruiting players. From there, he and his coaching staff follow a process of taking players through a play until they can do that play perfectly.  Saban does not allow himself, his coaches, or his players to focus on winning games.  He requires that everyone focus on perfect performance.

Saban’s approach is an interesting contrast to the approach of achieving success through visualizing success.  Saban does not want his players to think about results.  He requires that his players focus entirely on perfecting their performance of the process.  He expects 100% effort and execution on each play.

His players are mentally in the present moment.  The scores and victories will come as the result of perfectly completing the process.

Nick Saban learned a lot about coaching and a lot about process management from Bill Belichick.  From 1991-1994, Nick Saban worked as defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick, who was then head coach of  the Cleveland Browns.

Bill Belichick has coached in 7 Super Bowl games, and his teams have won 6 of those games.  In 4 of those games, Belichick was the head coach of the New England Patriots.

In 2007, after winning 3 Super Bowls, Belichick’s New England Patriots team became one of only 3 teams in NFL history to win every game of the regular season.

What I remember about press interviews in 2007 is that the Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Coach Belichick would not make predictions on having a perfect season.  Brady and Belichick both answered that they were just focusing on preparing for the next game.  Belichick is a process manager.  Saban has credited Belichick for teaching him a system of coaching football.   Focus on the process.  The wins will come from perfecting the process.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 2007 SEASON RECORD

Date

Opponent

Results

September 9 at Jets Win 38-14
September 16 Chargers Win 38-14
September 23 Bills Win 38-7
October 1 at Bengals Win 34-13
October 7 Browns Win 34-17
October 14 Cowboys Win 48-27
October 21 at Dolphins Win 49-28
October 28 Redskins Win 52-7
November 4 at Colts Win 24-20
November 18 at Bills Win 56-10
November 25 Eagles Win 31-28
December 3 at Ravens Win 27-24
December 9 Steelers Win 31-14
December 16 Jets Win 20-10
December 23 Dolphins Win 28-7
December 29 at Giants Win 38-35

Business process management works the same way.  The best companies hire the best people, train those people to follow a process, and continually retrain those people on the process as they move through the business year.

Retail/manufacturing consolidations, technology, and the exporting of American manufacturing have changed the process for American business.  The changes are similar to a situation where managers started their career with game plans for football now find themselves needing a game plan for water polo.

The goal of American manufacturers was once to push as much inventory as possible into retail warehouses.  The crush of inventory would compel retailers to promote those products through to consumers.  There are now fewer retailers and therefore fewer points where manufacturers can load in products.

Demand planning and the predictive accuracy of consumer targeted marketing have enabled retailers to shave inventory levels to days instead of weeks or months.  The most successful manufacturers today must accurately manage their own inventory to meet demand as well as accurately make recommendations to retailers about retail inventory levels.

The principles of business process management remain the same.  Saban and Belichick recruit the best players and place those players in a rigid system of process perfection.  The process allows players flexibility, but only within the structure of the process.  Business managers can apply the same principles to their business.  However, business managers have a greater need to recognize that they are in a much more dynamic and fluid situation than a football coach. The places of doing business, the methods of doing business, and the systems for doing business create the potential for change that infinitely exceeds the potential for change on the 120′ by 360′ football gridiron.

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