The Football strategy and business transformation: Occupying the empty spaces

Are you fighting for space or do you focus on empty spaces? What is your competitive focus? I used to play No. 9 during

Are you fighting for space or do you focus on empty spaces? What is your competitive focus?

I used to play No. 9 during my Primary school times. One day, the new school football coach came to our class, which was Primary Five. He said; “if you know  football, raise your hand.” All the boys in the classroom raised their hands. He added, “If you know football and how to play it, stand up.” Half of the boys in the class stood up, including me.

Unknown to us, the new coach had already talked to pupils in Primary Four and Six. The candidate class, primary seven were not usually involved in games. The coach instructed us to as fast as we could to the playing field and stand at the position we are good at playing. I found this outstanding. He was not only testing our ability to run faster which is a mark of a good sportsman but also if we knew our positions in the playing field. If you go to the playground, do you know where to stand? Which position to occupy?

I ran very fast and stood in the position of No. 9 in the first team. When I looked around, there were six other pupils already in the same position. They were bigger and more energetic than me. In my mind, I knew I had no chances. I looked across to the other team. I found No.9 already with over five boys. Frustrated, I started moving away from the playing field. I thought I stood no chance for a position in either team. As I walked out, the Coach saw me, and shouted, “Hey”, “why are you moving out?” “The position I play is already occupied,” I replied. They are over six pupils in the same position. He told me, “look at the goal. It is empty. Why don’t you go into the goal?”

Indeed, the goal was empty. I turned around and went and stood in the middle of the goalposts. And that is how I became the number two goalkeeper for the team. This gave me the opportunity to travel with the school team and experience a lot in my early years learning so many things about winning, and managing losses. And of course, never giving up and fighting until the end. Sport, more so football, is the best teacher of character.

That is where the idea of occupying the empty space comes in.

Most of the time we think what we are currently doing is the best. We get used to the comfort zone. We think that is the only way to win. We fight to protect our turf. However, interacting with several leaders and entrepreneurs, and being an entrepreneur myself, I have realized there are so many opportunities that exist when you look beyond the ordinary. This happens to us in our daily life. When you are invited to a conference, you will not occupy a seat that is already taken by another person by trying to remove them off it. You will scan for an empty seat.

Just like when you go into any business, it may not be strategic to compete in the same or similar services and goods the other players are already offering. Many businesses in Uganda are not growing to their full potential because of the tendency to replicate what someone else is already doing. Someone does not ask what is the unmet needs of customers. What is the customer’s pain and how can it be fixed? What is the empty space and how to fill it in the best way possible?

This conversation of the empty space instils the rare skill of always thinking novel. Ask questions to see the hidden opportunities and empty space. This is what other strategists have called the Blue Ocean strategy. How do you identify and occupy the empty space? Or the blue ocean where you don’t have to fight head-on?

Know the rules

To be a good footballer, you must understand the rules that govern the game. If you do not understand the rules, you will be penalized while on the playground. Imagine getting a red for a reckless tackle! You disadvantage your entire team. Cape Verde National team was penalized with two (2) red cards, a match they lost to Senegal in the AFCON 2022!

To succeed in any undertaking, the first rule is awareness. You must understand the rules of the game. This must start with the owners, directors and then with all staff. This creates a good tune at the top. It then goes to the Board. Does the Board understand the dos and don’ts of the game?  You have to invest a lot of resources to create this much-needed awareness. When everyone understands the company’s risk appetite, they know the limits within the organization will play.

The football game is played within boundaries. If the ball goes past the boundary, you can not continue playing. It is either a throw-in, corner kick, or goal kick. The rules are clear.

All successful businesses play within the rules. When you know the rules, it gives you opportunities for imagination. You understand what could go wrong and come up with an appropriate solution. The ability to come up with novel solutions to solve challenges within the rules, whoever does that better, wins. To do that, start by examining the environment and what has to be changed. You are taking a lot of time to know what is this organization, why was it founded, what does it do, how does it deliver value, what its are objectives, and what it’s the legal status?  When you ask all these questions, you understand the rules and regulatory environment to thrive.

Check out the Preparation part of our series on the Football Strategy and Business Transformation.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr Strategy 2022. All rights reserved

The Football strategy and business transformation:  Occupying the empty spaces

Are you fighting for space or do you focus on empty spaces? What is your competitive focus?

I used to play No. 9 during my Primary school times. One day, the new school football coach came to our class, which was Primary Five. He said; “if you know  football, raise your hand.” All the boys in the classroom raised their hands. He added, “If you know football and how to play it, stand up.” Half of the boys in the class stood up, including me.

Unknown to us, the new coach had already talked to pupils in Primary Four and Six. The candidate class, primary seven were not usually involved in games. The coach instructed us to as fast as we could to the playing field and stand at the position we are good at playing. I found this outstanding. He was not only testing our ability to run faster which is a mark of a good sportsman but also if we knew our positions in the playing field. If you go to the playground, do you know where to stand? Which position to occupy?

I ran very fast and stood in the position of No. 9 in the first team. When I looked around, there were six other pupils already in the same position. They were bigger and more energetic than me. In my mind, I knew I had no chances. I looked across to the other team. I found No.9 already with over five boys. Frustrated, I started moving away from the playing field. I thought I stood no chance for a position in either team. As I walked out, the Coach saw me, and shouted, “Hey”, “why are you moving out?” “The position I play is already occupied,” I replied. They are over six pupils in the same position. He told me, “look at the goal. It is empty. Why don’t you go into the goal?”

Indeed, the goal was empty. I turned around and went and stood in the middle of the goalposts. And that is how I became the number two goalkeeper for the team. This gave me the opportunity to travel with the school team and experience a lot in my early years learning so many things about winning, and managing losses. And of course, never giving up and fighting until the end. Sport, more so football, is the best teacher of character.

That is where the idea of occupying the empty space comes in.

Most of the time we think what we are currently doing is the best. We get used to the comfort zone. We think that is the only way to win. We fight to protect our turf. However, interacting with several leaders and entrepreneurs, and being an entrepreneur myself, I have realized there are so many opportunities that exist when you look beyond the ordinary. This happens to us in our daily life. When you are invited to a conference, you will not occupy a seat that is already taken by another person by trying to remove them off it. You will scan for an empty seat.

Just like when you go into any business, it may not be strategic to compete in the same or similar services and goods the other players are already offering. Many businesses in Uganda are not growing to their full potential because of the tendency to replicate what someone else is already doing. Someone does not ask what is the unmet needs of customers. What is the customer’s pain and how can it be fixed? What is the empty space and how to fill it in the best way possible?

This conversation of the empty space instills the rare skill of always thinking novel. Ask questions to see the hidden opportunities and empty space. This is what other strategists have called the Blue Ocean strategy. How do you identify and occupy the empty space? Or the blue ocean where you don’t have to fight head on?

Know the rules

To be a good footballer, you must understand the rules that govern the game. If you do not understand the rules, you will be penalized while on the playground. Imagine getting a red for a reckless tackle! You disadvantage your entire team. Cape Verde National team was penalized with two (2) red cards, a match they lost to Senegal in the AFCON 2022!

To succeed in any undertaking, the first rule is awareness. You must understand the rules of the game. This must start with the owners, directors and then to all staff. This creates a good tune at the top. It then goes to the Board. Does the Board understand the dos and don’ts of the game?  You have to invest a lot of resources to create this much-needed awareness. When everyone understands the company’s risk appetite, they know the limits within the organization will play.

The football game is played within boundaries. If the ball goes past the boundary, you can not continue playing. It is either a throw-in, corner kick, or goal kick. The rules are clear.

All successful businesses play within the rules. When you know the rules, it gives you opportunities for imagination. You understand what could go wrong and come up with an appropriate solution. The ability to come up with novel solutions to solve challenges within the rules, whoever does that better, wins. To do that, start by examining the environment and what has to be changed. You are taking a lot of time to know what is this organization, why was it founded, what does it do, how does it deliver value, what its are objectives, and what its legal status?  When you ask all these questions, you understand the rules and regulatory environment to thrive.

Check out the Preparation part of our series on the Football Strategy and Business Transformation.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr Strategy 2022. All rights reserved

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