Learning from losing: How to improve your game plan


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Winning three championships in a row creates a dynasty. Dynasties are the ultimate symbol of sports excellence. It is extremely hard to create a dynasty in sports and the recent Grey Cup result showed why.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/12/2022 (182 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winning three championships in a row creates a dynasty. Dynasties are the ultimate symbol of sports excellence. It is extremely hard to create a dynasty in sports and the recent Grey Cup result showed why.

Every team wants to beat the defending champions. Because it is a single game, there are so many chances for something to go wrong and impact the outcome. The competitor will try new plays as part of what they hope will be their winning game plan.

This was the situation for the Blue Bombers. They had won the Grey Cup two seasons in a row and were on the verge of creating the second true dynasty in the CFL after an outstanding regular season record. But the Toronto Argonauts had done their assessment of the Blue Bombers to create their game plan. It included minimizing mistakes, building off the physical strengths of their players, and managing their in-game decisions carefully, but positively. The Argos blocked a field goal attempt by Winnipeg near the end of the game to preserve a one point win.

While this was a devastating loss, the sun still came up on Monday morning and life carried on. One of the next important steps for the Bombers’ coaches is to evaluate the game and determine where their plan fell short. It is only after this evaluation that they can begin to plan for the next season.

Let’s consider business situations where you are submitting competitive proposals against industry peers. In such a highly competitive market, it is unreasonable to expect to win one hundred percent of the proposals you submit. However, if you are not preparing to win every proposal, I wonder why you are competing at all. While everyone should celebrate a successful business achievement, such as winning a big contract with a prestigious client, seldom is an assessment completed when losing a proposal. This often results in using the same approach for subsequent opportunities and producing the same result — no sale.

The challenge with conducting in-depth assessments of a lost business opportunity is that it takes time. Professional sports teams review, prepare and practise more often than they play. Business is playing all the time and has limited time to conduct needed analysis of individual situations. Instead, annual planning “retreats” consider all the high-level activities of the past year and the creation of a new budget for the upcoming year. When you do not immediately analyze why you lost the opportunity, you will never have time for the appropriate in-depth review at a future point.

The key to successful analysis of lost opportunities consists of a deliberate process. Ensuring a comprehensive review will provide appropriate insights you can leverage as you prepare a revised winning game plan for the next opportunity.

First, assess the main reasons for your loss. Prepare a list of questions and ask to meet with the client to review where you fell short. Sometimes, clients may be hesitant to provide too much detail, as they may believe the winning proposal terms are confidential. However, if you do not ask, then you will never know what the client is willing to share. You should include questions about your price — what is the percentage difference to the winning bid? And also include questions about other aspects of the overall proposal such as timing, delivery (if appropriate), credit terms, customer support, and so on. You will need to identify the key questions based on unique aspects of your industry and submission.

Second, objectively assess the quality of your submission. Did it have enough or too much detail? Was the approach you presented clear and consistent with what the client was asking? Were you able to include specific insights you gained from meetings with the client in advance of the submission? How were you able to make your proposal unique?

Finally, assess the inputs of each member of the proposal team. Assessing how they performed at each stage of this process will let you know if you have the right team or not. Having a winning game plan is the fundamental first step. Ensuring you have talented employees to deliver on the game plan is the next most crucial factor for success.

Knowing Blue Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea, he has already started the evaluation process to improve results for next season. Considering your competitive business situation, if you don’t have time to do this now, why do you believe you will have time in the future?

Tim’s bits: Like anything in life that is worth having, you must work for it. In business, preparing for a client opportunity requires foresight and a process to collect insights to avoid too much hindsight where nothing happens. A proper review of lost opportunities is key to developing your next winning game plan.

Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant, authorized by law, and a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba.

Tim Kist

Tim Kist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.

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